With the 2017 NFL draft around the corner, Dr Steven Sampson’s annual regenerative medicine conference TOBI had the opportunity to discuss orthobiologics and regenerative medicine with recently retired Tampa Bay Buccaneers Gosder Cherilus. Gosder played in the NFL for 9 seasons with over 116 starts with the Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While playing in the NFL, Gosder sustained a number of injuries to his fingers, shoulders, knees, and hip. A study was recently published about NFL athletes like Gosder and the frequent orthopedic injuries associated with football and the need for better minimally invasive treatments in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.This Northwestern University study catalogues the postoperative outcomes of orthopaedic procedures in NFL athletes and compares respective prognoses and effects on careers.
The NFL, NBA, and MLB are welcoming PRP, and its categorization as a medical treatment, rather than a performance-enhancing treatment, has been crucial. We sat down with Gosder to discuss his experience with orthobiologics in the NFL.
TOBI: What is it like to play in the NFL?
Cherilus: There is nothing like it. For anyone that has played football either as a kid or in college it’s the highest point that you can reach in your career. Being in the NFL for me was everything. I think about all of the relationships I made and the piece of mind it gave me.
In your 9-year professional career what kind of injuries did you sustain?
I’ve had over 8 different knee surgeries. My biggest surgery was a microfracture right knee surgery. It was my toughest one. I was told by the doctor that I wouldn’t be able to come back from it. I came back from the injury but I was never the same. I wasn’t as explosive. I couldn’t squat or get too deep but the moment I got my head around the pain I just found a way to play the game. I had a hip replacement surgery a few years ago as well as wrist surgery. If you ask anyone who has played the game for that long they know that you leave with injuries.
What orthobiologics treatments did you use in order to have a healthy and speedy recovery?
I’ve had platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections about 6 to 8 times. I had the treatment performed in each knee. The team of doctors drew my own blood, sent it to the lab to spin it down and isolate the PRP. Afterwards they injected both knees multiple times. My knee did feel better but then the pain came back. I had it done this year again during the 2016 season before a game. I also considered Regenokine before retiring from the league.
In the NFL your body is a big component of your career… what would you say to young players about orthobiologics?
I would tell them to figure out the treatment that works best for them and what their options are. It’s important for them to understand what works for their bodies. Be an athlete give your body the best chance to succeed. If you give it your best at least you know that you did everything you could. Don’t just sit back and let your body dictate how long you could go in life. Don’t let anyone deter you. Measure yourself by how far you can push yourself.
What are the injuries NFL players encounter in the NFL?
The most common injuries that guys talked about while I was playing were: fingers, legs, knee, back, and elbows.
What other options were presented to you besides orthobiologics?
I saw a lot of doctors and some of them had no idea what was going on and some of them did. Some of my injuries were more intense than others and required surgery right away. In the cases where it didn’t I made sure to explore as many mediums as possible.
With the draft being around the corner, what would you say to young players coming into the NFL about ways to keep their bodies young and healthy?
If I had to talk to young guys I would say that they need to take care of their bodies before they are forced to. Being a professional athlete is not a long career. For athletes, our bodies are a machine. If you don’t take care of it then it won’t take care of you.
According to the NFL data published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, ACL reconstructions, patella tendon and Achilles tendon injuries are the most challenging injuries to recover from. More cutting edge therapies are needed to promote better return to play outcomes and prolong careers in professional football players.