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Keylor Navas and his knees

Real Madrid v AC Milan - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Unlike the 2017/2018 season, the goal keeper position this season was not locked down by any one person. We saw a lot of Thibaut Courtois (27 apearances), and not as much of Keylor Navas (10 appearances). We never saw Keylor get injured, so it was hard to imagine why he might’ve been benched for so long. However, earlier this season, the Costa Rican underwent a stem cell knee surgery over an international break. Stem cells are incredible. These are cells that can become nearly any type of cell that a body needs.

There are two main types: embryonic and mesenchymal (or adult) stem cells. As you can imagine, they prove to be quite useful in the medical field for various treatments. One of these: a treatment thought to help improve joints, either after injury or as a treatment of osteoarthritis. (Osteoarthritis is the gradual breakdown of bones due to standard wear-and-tear. Most commonly, it can be found in the hips, knees, and hands.)

The procedure is a seemingly easy one with a quick turnaround time. (Note: I am not a doctor so this is in no way actual medical advice. At the moment, stem cell use in the United States has only been approved by the FDA for treatment of certain cancers.) Stem cells are extracted either from a bone marrow aspirate, generally from the iliac crest, or from fat that has been spun down in a centrifuge to separate the adipocytes (fat cells) from the stem cells. (There’s a great video here. If you have a weak stomach like mine, watch out, but it’s not too bad.)

At this point, the joint is cleaned out and the stem cells are injected. Patients are generally sent home that same day and improvement can be seen as soon as a few days later. The main goals of this procedure are to regrow of cartilage as well as reduce inflammation. Like I said earlier, we never saw Keylor sustain any kind of physical injury so him undergoing a procedure like this might be surprising.

However, how often do we actually consider the impact of day-to-day training and standard in-game activity on athletes? If it’s not something as significant as taking a bad header or a hard hit, I would venture to guess that we really don’t consider it at all. So while this may have seen sudden for him, it’s really been a long time coming.

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