What’s the big deal about Bartolo Colon’s stem cell injections?

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There was some moderate-to-serious hand-wringing the other day when it was revealed that Bartolo Colon received an injection of his own stem cells to help repair ligaments.  As David Epstein notes in a very informative article over at SI, however, the hand-wringing is unwarranted.  Colon’s procedure is fairly commonplace and, in its general effect, is no different than microfracture surgery, which no one thinks is a problem.

He likens the response to Colon’s procedure to another procedure — platelet rich plasma therapy — that caused people to freak out a little bit in recent years. In both cases, however, the therapy itself is noncontroversial. The source of the controversy was the doctor at the center of the particular case: Anthony Galea in PRP and Joseph R. Purita in the case of Colon’s stem cell thing.  Galea remains in legal trouble over his alleged use, purchase and transport of HGH. Purita because he admitted that in his non-athlete patients he uses HGH in the stem cell therapy.

Given the level of misinformation and ignorance floating around sports media and among fans when it comes to things like PEDs, it’s not surprising that new-to-us medical procedures lead to raised eyebrows.  But we should all understand that, for the vast majority of us, when we talk about medicine, we really don’t know what the hell we’re talking about.