Some professional football players are seeking unproven stem cell therapies to speed their recovery from injuries. But experts are concerned that they may be unaware of the potential risks, a new report shows.

Stem cell therapy has attracted the attention of elite athletes. A number of National Football League (NFL) players have highlighted their use of those therapies and their successful recoveries.

Twelve NFL players are known to have received unapproved stem cell treatments since 2009.

"The online data on NFL players and the clinics where they obtained treatment suggest that players may be unaware of the risks they are taking," report co-author Kirstin Matthews, a fellow in science and technology policy at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, said in a university news release.

"Players who are official spokespersons for these clinics could influence others to view the therapies as safe and effective despite the lack of scientific research to support these claims," she added.

Most of the players receive treatment in the United States, but several have gone to other countries for stem cell therapies that aren't available in the United States.

"With the rise of new and unproven stem cell treatments, the NFL faces a daunting task of trying to better understand and regulate the use of these therapies in order to protect the health of its players," Matthews said.

The NFL and other sports leagues may need to evaluate and possibly regulate stem cell therapies in order to ensure the safety of their players, the report authors suggested.

New treatments may not work, or may have unknown risks,...

New treatments may not work, or may have unknown risks, expert says Credit: HealthDay

The paper appears in a special supplement to the journal Stem Cells and Development.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about stem cells.

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