How stem cell therapy could replace Tommy John surgery to repair muscles

Angels pitcher Garrett Richards has opted to undergo stem cell therapy rather than Tommy John surgery.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Stem cell therapy could replace traditional ligament-replacement surgery as the first option to repair partial ulnar collateral ligament tears in pitchers' elbows. The Angels' Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney each opted to undergo the 20-minute therapy procedure. If it works, they could return to play a year sooner than if they had chosen what is popularly known as Tommy John surgery.

Harvesting bone marrow

With the recipient under anesthesia, bone marrow is harvested from the pelvis.

Separating cells from plasma

The marrow is twice spun in a centrifuge to separate the desired cells from the plasma as much as possible .


The stem-cell-rich liquid is injected into the elbow, where it speeds up the body’s natural healing process.

Sources: Steve Whyte, Ryan Vaughn, Felix Dunn:, Regenerative Medicine Training Institute