Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ricky Romero (maybe Roberto Osuna) and Stem Cell and Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapies

   Although he insists that his control and velocity issues of the past two seasons are decidedly of the mental variety, and not the physical kind, Blue Jays highly-paid farmhand Ricky Romero admitted that he received injections as part of  Stem Cell therapy last October, and had undergone Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy after the 2012 season.
   Romero made the admission to John Lott of the National Post.  Romero underwent the painful procedure, in which plasma is removed from bone marrow in one part of the body (in this case, his lower back), and injected into another (his aching knees).  Romero has been reluctant to acknowledge his health issues, because he didn't want that to be an excuse for his performance, but he did agree that he may have overdone it working on his lower body in the weight room, and that his physical issues did become mental.
   Stem cell therapy has been used very successfully on the tendons and ligaments of injured racehorses.  Conventional therapies tend to lead to the formation of fibrous scar tissue, which can reduce mobility and full joint movement. Stem cell therapy allowed more horses return to racing, and greatly reduced the rate of re-injury in one study over a three year period.
   Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy has been used by a number of major league teams to treat torn ulnar collateral ligaments, with varying degrees of success.  The process involves spinning a patient's blood in a centrifuge in order to remove the platelets, which are then injected into the elbow to promote faster healing and tissue regeneration.  As we wrote about in an earlier post, the lack of success for some pitchers may have resulted in contaminated platelets, or inefficient injection into the injury site.
   We speculated in that post that Roberto Osuna maybe have undergone PRP therapy during one of his two shutdowns last season.  That Romero underwent the procedure (albeit for his knees) may indicate that it has the blessing of management, increasing to us the likelihood that Osuna had it as well.  It also would appear that the treatment was unsuccessful as well.
  In that earlier post, we also outlined a timeline for recovery and a return to throwing for a pitcher who had undergone Tommy John surgery to replace the damaged UCL, as Osuna had at the end of July.  By month 7, which would've passed last week, a pitcher can start to throw on flat ground, if the recovery has gone well up to that point.  Osuna, according to his Twitter feed, is there:

     Osuna also posted a picture of himself, which shows the slimmed-down teenager we saw in that earlier post:

   Questions about Osuna's conditioning and high-maintenance body have been present almost since he made his pro debut.  Maybe he's ready to take his conditioning more seriously.
   If all continues to go well for Osuna, he will begin throwing off a mound in about a month.  When spring training camp breaks, he will continue to rehab in Florida.  He may get into some game action in the lower minors in August.
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