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Sports medicine’s unique treatments

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Sports medicine offers unique treatments for chronic orthopedic conditions.

They may be ideal for people who have long struggled with those conditions but aren’t quite ready for surgery.

Such treatments were the focus of a livestreamed Q&A session with Dr. Michael Harper, a non-operative and interventional sports medicine physician with Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic in Manitowoc.

Harper treats conditions that include osteoarthritis as well as tendon, muscle and ligament issues. Unique treatment options include orthobiologics and radiofrequency ablation (RFA).


Orthobiologics, Harper says, means “using your own cells … your own healing factor to promote (healing with) your condition.”

Treatments such as platelet-rich plasma and bone marrow aspirate fall under this category, Harper said.

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP)

This treatment uses a patient’s blood platelets to initiate a regenerative process. Blood is drawn and processed to isolate plasma and platelets. Plasma is rich in platelets and platelets are rich in proteins that heal the body and control inflammation. Platelets are injected into the area of concern.

Bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC)

This is a stem cell-based therapy. The procedure involves a blood draw and drawing bone marrow from the pelvis. Bone marrow has platelets and a variety of powerful cells, including stem cells, that facilitate healing. The cells are processed in a centrifuge machine that separates the bone marrow aspirate from the cell layer. The separated material is then injected into the problem area.

“More recent meta-analysis is saying that (orthobiologics) lasts longer and also has a higher effect than steroid injections,” Harper says.

There are no age restrictions for being treated with orthobiologics.

Radiofrequency ablation

“Radiofrequency ablation is where we target a nerve that innervates a joint and then we go and we burn that nerve so it doesn’t transmit pain,” Harper says

A local anesthetic, typically lidocaine, is used to numb the area being treated.

Harper urged those enduring chronic orthopedic conditions to discuss with their health care provider the possibility of orthobiologics as a treatment option.

“If you are having an issue – particularly someone that is having joint pain or musculoskeletal pain – and it’s impacting your quality of life and your day-to-day activities … then, normally I say, that’s the time to see us to see if we can optimize and do something differently,” Harper says.

Published: Monday, May 22, 2023