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

May 13, 2011, 9:40 AM EDT

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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.

  1. bleedgreen - May 13, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    People head the words ‘stem cells’ and think embryonic stem cells and think about killing babies. That’s the bottom line,no matter how ignorant a stance it is.

    • aceshigh11 - May 13, 2011 at 10:47 AM

      So you think Bartolo Colon is in danger of being blown away by an anti-abortion zealot?

      Maybe they think he’s getting his stem cells the way Christopher Reeve did in that one South Park episode.

      But you know…as long as he continues to look pregnant, I think he’s safe.

      (I know that was in monumentally bad taste, but I just couldn’t help myself)

  2. deathmonkey41 - May 13, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    Who cares- even if they did use embryonic stem cells. If they could inject dead baby matter into my back and heal my disc problems, I’d be the happiest MF’er in the world.

  3. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 13, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    I kind of get a kick out of the idea that the professional athlete has to take medical treatment that is a step down from what a person who works as a receptionist in an office would be able to receive. (i.e., “…in his non-athlete patients he uses HGH in the stem cell therapy.”)

  4. cleverbob - May 13, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    Why aren’t we funding this?

    • phukyouk - May 13, 2011 at 11:02 AM


    • Brian Murphy - May 13, 2011 at 2:10 PM

      As a person with cerebral palsy, I wonder the same thing.

  5. Jonny 5 - May 13, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    Any news about about a Yankee gets hand wringing does it not? I think people not being aware of where this falls within “the rules” for treatments allowed caused the hand wringing mostly. I mean, everyone knows that no one has reported successfully using embryonic stem cells in humans before. All stem cell treatment has been from ones own stem cells which makes sense in terms of rejection.

  6. Max Power - May 13, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    There’s a rumor that Mickey Mantle received penicillin injections to recover from “injuries.”

    • sdelmonte - May 13, 2011 at 10:52 AM

      Whatever this “penicilin” was, it didn’t work.

    • Jonny 5 - May 13, 2011 at 10:57 AM

      I heard it was from injuries sustained from “while under the bleachers.”

  7. belichickee - May 13, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    Well, it’s a bit fishy in that the doctor went to the DR to perform the surgery and when asked about it he said something crazy like he did that because he’s working with a technology company based in Massachusetts. So he’s licensed in Florida, working with a company based in Massachusetts, but goes to the DR, the absolute hot bed of shady medical practices, to do the surgery? Seems a bit off to me.

  8. trevorb06 - May 13, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    But those stem cells taken from his body could be made into babies! And those babies could be made into God fearin’, America lovin’ soldiers on the battlefield fighting for America and for Patriotism. Jesus wouldn’t want you using them stem cells taken from his own body for any other purpose! God bless America!

    *sarcasm* :-)

  9. crpls - May 13, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    Why should performance enhancing surgery (PES from here on out) be legal, but PED aren’t? Hmph!

    • bklynbaseball - May 13, 2011 at 1:30 PM

      Oh, so now we should outlaw “Tommy John” surgery??? Easy there, buddy. Slow down and think a little.

  10. bigtrav425 - May 13, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    HGH is a good thing in athletes and non athletes alike.its baffling to me that its become such a big issue

  11. deathmonkey41 - May 13, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    I wonder if this doctor could perform a procedure on Jorge Posada to get him to stop swinging at breaking balls in the dirt?

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