Brian Urlacher won’t discuss therapy for injured knee
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org August 22, 2012 10:22PM
Brian Urlacher’s injured left knee never will recover completely because of trauma to the ligaments. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: September 24, 2012 7:53AM
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher on Wednesday didn’t confirm or deny a Tribune report that he visited Germany several months ago to consider a pioneering therapy, Regenokine, for his left knee previously used by other elite American athletes.
The paper cited one source as saying Urlacher left sometime in May or early June to meet with a physician described as “that famous doctor everybody goes to.” Another source said Urlacher opted for “non-invasive treatment” that he paid for himself.
Asked if he went to Germany during that time frame, Urlacher said, “I didn’t think there were any quotes from me, or anybody else for that matter. I didn’t think so. It doesn’t matter what I did or haven’t done. This is where we’re at now, so that’s all that matters.”
Meanwhile, Bears coach Lovie Smith declined to address the matter, except to say, “He’s here right now, he’s getting better and we’re expecting him to play the first game.”
But two U.S.-based doctors highlighted the pros and cons of Regenokine therapy and noted that if Urlacher did receive the treatment, it didn’t work because he underwent a knee scope Aug. 14.
“We don’t know if he had it, but if he did and he still had swelling, it probably didn’t work,” said Dr. Pietro Tonino, a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at Loyola University Medical Center who has done thousands of knee surgeries. “The fact that Urlacher needed surgery after getting this therapy shows that is not effective for everyone.”
Added Dr. Steve Yoon, who’s on the staff for the Los Angeles Dodgers and consults for the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Angels and Loyola Marymount University: “Some of my patients have told me that they have received improvement, and some said they haven’t, so it’s a little bit of a mixed bag.”
Tonino doesn’t use the injection-based therapy like the one Dr. Peter Wehling developed, drawing rave reviews from notable athletes such as Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez. Yoon administers Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections. He said he has referred some of his clients to Dr. Chris Renna, who has collaborated with Wehling and performs the Regenokine injections.
But there’s a problem: Renna, who is based in Santa Monica, Calif., is doing so without the approval of the Food and Drug Administration.
“There’s been conflicting evidence, but there’s been plenty of evidence to show that PRP or an equivalent has helped with tissue injuries and arthritis,” said Yoon, a physician at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles. “But it can be hit and miss. It sounds like there were still some other issues, so it’s very possible that it didn’t help enough with [Urlacher’s] injury, or there was another separate issue that it could not have helped.”
With Regenokine, the subject’s own blood is incubated, cultivating an anti-inflammatory element, before being injected back into the body. Bryant, for instance, told Rodriguez that the injections had his knees feeling “like a 27-year-old again,” the baseball star told reporters in February. Bryant is 34.
Yoon said Regenokine hasn’t threatened his PRP injections, but he’s intrigued by the newer therapy’s potential.
“How amazing would that be, if it was a viable treatment for people with arthritis or any type of joint degeneration?” Yoon said. “It would be nice to have that option.”
Added Tonino: “The FDA’s very picky about what they approve, but sometimes it makes it longer for some treatments to get popular here.”
Another concern is that Regenokine injections can cost between $7,500 and $10,000, depending on the body part. PRP injections cost about $500.
As for Urlacher, Tonino said any trauma to the ligaments — the linebacker injured his posterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in the 2011 season finale — will not allow a full recovery.
“His knee will never be 100 percent, but it’ll be pretty good,” Tonino said. “But because he’s such a good athlete, he’s able to play with stuff that 99.99 percent of the people can’t. But athletes aren’t always patient. He’ll be suited up [for the Sept. 9 opener] and standing there, but how he’ll function, I don’t know.”