Pro Sports Medical Treatments for the Rest of Us

The Oregonian published a brief but rather interesting article on March 21st talking about PRP and stem cell therapies. The article was based on an interview conducted by a local radio show host involving a Portland doctor promoting regenerative medicine in his own practice. The most fascinating part of the article was the inference to regenerative medicine being medicine for pro sports that is now available to the rest of us.

The main point to focus on is the idea of pro sports medical treatments. You can look at things like PRP and stem cell therapies through the lens of class warfare, which is to say that pro athletes have access to treatments that are out of reach for the average American. But there is a better way to look at it: without pro athletes spending the money to fund these treatments in years past, they probably would not be available to the rest of us now.

Regenerative Medicine in the Past

During the interview, Dr. Russ Riggs made a point of describing the medical field’s limited knowledge of platelet-rich plasma some 20 years ago. When he was in school, Dr. Riggs was taught that the only useful purpose for blood platelets was to coagulate in order to stop bleeding. But in the years since, medical science has discovered that platelets and their associated growth factors do so much more.

That knowledge led to the introduction of PRP injections as a healing therapy about a decade ago. But at that time, PRP injections were not available to the general public. They were considered highly experimental and reserved only for people who could afford for them. Enter pro athletes who wanted something to get them back into competitive play as quickly as possible – no matter the cost.

Those early days provided a stable market for both PRP and stem cell treatments and, thus, encourage researchers to continue looking into the efficacy of regenerative medicine. Market growth led to more doctors learning how to perform the procedures. The end result was an increase in supply that helped to start bringing prices down. Today PRP and stem cell therapies are affordable to the average middle-class American.

Still Out-of-Pocket

If there’s one negative aspect to regenerative medicine, it is the fact that insurance companies still don’t cover it most of the time. In fact, their coverage is for very rare exceptions that include leukemia treatments and post-surgical wound healing. Other than that, patients have to pay for their treatments out-of-pocket.

That is not necessarily a bad thing, according to Utah-based Apex Biologix. Keeping insurance companies out of the equation allows doctors to charge what the procedures are worth rather than having to artificially inflate their rates to cover lower insurance company reimbursements.

Keeping insurance companies out of the transaction is a good thing for patients, even though they may not see it that way. Remember that when you’re dealing with insurance companies, they call the shots. They determine what treatments a patient will receive by establishing very strict criteria governing what they will cover.

Paying for regenerative medicine out-of-pocket completely eliminates any control insurance companies would otherwise exert. Patients and their doctors are free to seek out the best treatments without thereat of insurance company interference.

The era of PRP and stem cell therapies for the average American is now here. Thanks to investments made a decade ago by pro athletes and their employers, the rest of us are beginning to gain access to alternative treatments. We no longer have to rely on invasive surgery, pain medication, etc.

Ronnie Riffle

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