Sports Again at 81!

Nonsurgical protocol regenerates injured, arthritic joints

Dave Drakulich has always excelled at sports. Even now, he plays at an elite level. In September, his team won the world championship of senior softball for the third time in four years. Every member of his team is 80 years old or older.
Dave’s proud he’s able to perform at such a high level after suffering a devastating knee injury years ago. He recalls the injury to his knee and how it kept him out of the game.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

At 81, Dave plays softball at an elite level.

“I severely damaged my right knee playing fast-pitch softball when I was thirty-eight,” confirms the Northern Ohio native. “It was so bad at the time, I had to quit playing. I couldn’t run. My knee became habitually swollen after that, and it would occasionally bother me. If I didn’t exercise, it really hurt.
“After I moved to Florida, I got asked to play softball in a church league, and I started playing again. I ended up in an over-fifty league, and I’ve been in that league ever since.”
Still, the swelling continued in Dave’s right knee. It often became painful after a day of activity, especially golfing, one of his favorite pastimes. This spring, he decided it was time to seek help for his knee. He wasn’t interested in anything surgical and wanted to investigate a leading-edge treatment he’d heard about called stem cell therapy.
Dave also heard Erick A. Grana, MD, at Regenerative Orthopedic Institute in Tampa was a pioneer in this safe, nonsurgical treatment for eliminating joint pain. Using stem cell therapy, Dr. Grana has helped hundreds of people find relief from painful knees, necks, shoulders, elbows, hips, lower backs and other joints. In June of this year, Dave asked Dr. Grana for help with his knee.
“I met with Dr. Grana, and he laid out a plan of action for me,” reports Dave. “He explained that the therapy would include five injections and have a six-week healing period, but my knee would continue to regenerate after the six weeks. He scheduled the treatment for the Monday after Father’s Day, which was the nineteenth of June.”
On the Friday before, Dave played golf with his son. He soon regretted it, however, as his knee became very painful afterward.
“That night, I couldn’t sleep because my knee hurt so badly,” he relates. “It was a dull ache, but it hurt enough that I couldn’t sleep. On a scale of one to ten, the pain was an eight and half to nine.
Dr. Grana said it was caused by the twisting and turning of my golf swing.
“On Monday, I had the shots, and I’ve had no pain since.”

Regeneration Stimulation

“When Dave came to me, he was experiencing knee pain and decreased range of motion at the joint, resulting in decreased function,” describes Dr. Grana. “He was having difficulty with work and sports, and wanted to get back to his normal activities. He had osteoarthritis in his right knee due to a past injury. He was a good candidate for stem cell therapy.”
With stem cell therapy, people can regain function of a damaged joint without surgery. It is regenerative medicine that harnesses the body’s natural healing mechanisms. Not only does it offer pain relief, but it also has the capacity to repair damage that moderate-to-severe arthritis or injuries can cause.
Stem cell therapy is autologous, meaning it utilizes stem cells, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and growth factors from the patient’s own body. Using the patient’s own cells eliminates the chances of reactive side effects or rejection.
These harvested cells are then injected into the painful area to stimulate regeneration of damaged tissue and the healing of tendons, ligaments, joints or spinal discs. The goals are to relieve pain, restore function and, importantly, help people avoid surgery and the risks that come with it.
“When I first was introduced to stem cell therapy, I recognized its tremendous potential for patients who otherwise have limited treatment options for pain relief,” recounts Dr. Grana.
“Patients with osteoarthritis, like Dave, have very few choices other than surgery when the condition advances and damages the joint,” he adds. “Since surgery has potential complications, when we treat arthritic joints without surgery, patients do much better.”

Pioneered Protocols

To effectively deliver stem cells, PRP and growth factors into the pain generators in and around joints, such as shoulders and knees, Dr. Grana pioneered a specialized protocol called RegenaJoint. He also developed a system to treat the spine in a similar manner through a process called RegenaSpine.
“As part of the protocol, we extract stem cells from bone marrow or fat and platelet-rich plasma from the patient’s own blood to use in the problem areas,” explains Dr. Grana. “We perform RegenaJoint by placing injections into the knee joint and ligaments surrounding the knee, the ligaments around the shoulder and inside the shoulder joint, or into the hip joint area. If the problem is in the back, the RegenaSpine procedure can be performed on the discs and facet joints of the spine.”
“The therapy was relatively painless,” offers Dave. “Dr. Grana explained what he was doing all the way through the procedure. When he inserted the needle, the solution just felt a little cold. I got immediate relief. I could do everything normal except golf for the next four weeks.”
To precisely deliver stem cells into the painful area, Dr. Grana uses image guidance through ultrasound and fluoroscopy (continuous x-rays). Many other clinics do not use this process.
“This imaging guides us to put the stem cells where they need to go. Not everybody does it this way, which is a shame because the results are much better when the stem cells are delivered to the area where they will do the most good,” the physician states.
“Many patients over seventy believe stem cell therapy will not help them because their stem cells are old and will not work as well. Dave’s case shows that senior patients do very well with this procedure. He was able to continue his active lifestyle.”
The minimally invasive RegenaJoint and RegenaSpine procedures are performed in the office with no bleeding, scarring or downtime. Patients typically resume normal activities right away.

Stem Cell Fertilizer

After the first four weeks, Dave went back to Regenerative Orthopedic Institute, and
Dr. Grana took a blood sample from him. The doctor’s assistant processed the sample and removed the platelets, and Dr. Grana reinserted them into Dave’s knee as a booster.
“I say it was the fertilizer,” quips Dave. “Dr. Grana doesn’t call it that, but the blood platelets are what help the stem cells work harder.”
Dave notes his pain level before stem cell therapy had gotten as high as a nine. Now, he reports, it’s a zero. He’s returned to all of his activities without swelling or discomfort.
“After seven weeks, I started golfing again,” he verifies. “Now, I can turn and swing properly, and there’s no pain. I still ache a little bit if I overdo it in the garden, but overall, the therapy was very successful.
“The staff at Regenerative Orthopedic Institute is very helpful and considerate. Dr. Grana’s explanation of how the procedure worked was exact. He certainly knows his business. Dr. Grana did a great job with my therapy, and if I had to do it over again, I would.”

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