With professional sports organizations plagued with consistent athlete injuries and their long-term effects, one blossoming area of medicine is specializing in a way to make long and painful injury recovery a thing of the past.
This field of research—referred to as regenerative medicine and expected to mature into a $24.7 billion market by 2017, according to at least one estimate—is gaining more attention because of its unique pain alleviation methods. The linchpin of the field is the use of stem cells, which can be applied to a range of therapies for ligaments, tendons and skeletal injuries that affect sports players and non-athletes alike.
Regeneration has been around since 1981, but has gotten more attention as a number of organizations have funneled money into the research. In 2013, Harvard Medical School received a 10-year, multimillion grant from the National Football League Players Association for an initiative to prevent, treat and study football-related injuries and ailments. Included in the multi-disciplinary effort are treatments that utilize regenerative medicine.
The Mayo Clinic calls the therapy a "game-changing area of medicine," offering effective therapy for people whose conditions are beyond repair. Experts say the field, which combines cell biology, traditional medicine and physics, holds promise for treating numerous ailments.
Advances in the field have opened up opportunities for companies such as Applied Biologics, a biotech company that uses regenerative medicine to develop treatments and products. In an interview, company President Edward Britt says the work done in the sector is speeding up the process of healing, so people can "get back on the field, the court or the road quicker and stronger."
With broken bones being one of the most frequent of athletic injuries, orthopedics is a promising subset of the regenerative field. Britt said that market was a particular emphasis for Applied Biologics, with orthopedic physicians "getting good results" from the company's solutions.