Posted By:

Dr. Andy Keith

Garrett Richards Spring Return

Garrett Richards spring return is remarkable comeback story continues. Updating a story that we have been tracking on the high profile ...

Garrett Richards spring return is remarkable comeback story continues.

Updating a story that we have been tracking on the high profile Major League Baseball pitcher, Richards returned to the mound this spring, months ahead of schedule after a devastating torn UCL injury last year. Richards opted for a combination of stem cell therapy and PRP Therapy over the traditional Tommy John ligament replacement surgery that has been commonplace for these types injuries over the last 40 years.

The ace pitcher of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim continued his return to the Angels rotation this spring.  In a cactus league game on March 16th, Richards velocity reached 98.5 MPH on the Tempe Diablo Stadium radar gun.

Richards improbable return is turning heads in major league circles and his early return will be  a major storyline this season.  


Why Did Richards Choose Stem Cell Therapy?

Garrett Richards faced a difficult choice after being diagnosed with a partially torn UCL last May: Undergo Tommy John surgery and, at earliest, return following the 2017 All-Star break or follow the advice of his doctors at the Kerlan-Jobe clinic in Los Angeles, and try to salvage the ligament with stem cells.

Ironically, Dr. Frank Jobe is the doctor that performed the first successful surgery on Tommy John in 1974.

Why stem cells?

garrett richards spring returnRichards on the advice of his doctors,  took a chance on stem cell therapy, because of the promise of a quicker healing time, and because it is a less invasive treatment.  For Richards it was a risk worth taking, and right now is looking like a great decision, one that might change the way these injuries are routinely treated in the future.

Stem cells are the body’s own repair kit. When you receive an injury, your body’s stem cells rush to the injured area and start the healing process. Sometimes your own stem cells cannot get through to the injured area due to the amount of damage from the injury or surgery.

Modern stem cell therapy techniques harvest stem cells directly from the patient’s own body. This is a quick and safe process that involves the gathering of fat cells — also known as adipose tissue — from a patient, which are loaded with stem cells. Another form of the treatment harvests stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow. The extracted cells are concentrated by placing them in a centrifuge, and then injecting them back into the injured part of the body.

In Richard's’ case, bone marrow was used. From a Yahoo article on the Richards’ procedure“On the day he hoped would save his elbow, Garrett Richards laid face down on a table with his back exposed. A doctor guided a needle into the iliac crest of his pelvic bone and began to extract bone marrow.”

Garrett Richards is a Believer

At the time of the injury, Richards’ decision was considered risky. Richards is not the first MLB pitcher to opt for this surgical alternative. As we reported last May, Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon had the stem cell treatment in 2010 to repair a torn rotator cuff and an elbow injury.

Richard’s case was different because he is in his prime, and facing the prospect of a two-year layoff, was sure to cost the ace pitcher a significant amount of time and money. The success of the treatment has brought Richards back to the mound much quicker than the recovery time for Tommy John surgery.  

It is estimated that the earliest possible return to working out and throwing would have been late summer of this year. He most likely would not have been able to play this season. The most optimistic prognosis would have been a return to the rotation sometime in September of this year. The Angels most likely would not have rushed him, so a 2018 return would have been most probable.

“After apparently succeeding with this still-unusual treatment combination, Richards is hoping other pitchers with elbow problems will consider every possible path back to the mound.

"If you can prevent being cut on and having surgery, that's the No. 1 priority," Richards said. "I hope guys don't just jump right into Tommy John. I hope they at least explore this option. Figure out what you've got. Get a second opinion. ... It's only gotten better since it happened, so I'm a believer." (Source: USA Today)

Good News for Pain Sufferers

The good news for pain sufferers is that stem cell treatment is becoming more available as an alternative treatment to surgery for a wide variety of injuries and ailments. It is quickly becoming the future of how injuries are treated, providing an alternative to more invasive surgeries.

For individuals suffering from any of the following injuries: sports injuries, back, rotator cuff, hip, arthritis, shoulder or are considering hip replacement or knee replacement surgery, stem cell therapy may provide you with the relief that you are looking for.

Speak with a specialist to determine if stem cell therapy may help you lead a pain free life.


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As with any form of medical treatment, you should consult with your physician before embarking on any treatment plan. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed accurate for the purposes of diagnosing your particular medical condition

Dr. Andy Keith

Andy is passionate about helping people avoid surgery and has been doing so for over 30 years. As a Partner of SoCal Regenerative Medical Clinic, he has worked hard to expand the availability of non-surgical treatments to all of Southern California. When not speaking at conferences or treating patients, Andy enjoys running marathons and dancing salsa with his beautiful wife, Sandra.

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