Local doctor helps injured athletes recover through unique procedure
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IDAHO FALLS – An Idaho Falls doctor is offering injured athletes a procedure to get them back in the game as quickly as possible.
Dr. Sarah Vlach is a physician with Eastern Idaho Spine, Sports and Rehab Center. She treats athletes and patients of all ages, but says the majority of her clients are between 40 and 60 years old.
“That tends to be the age when (old injuries) catch up to them,” Vlach tells EastIdahoNews.com. “These are people who were extremely active when they were young. Their body can usually hold on for a number of years, but then we start to see those injuries become long-term problems.”
Rather than dealing with pain or discomfort years after the injury occurred, Vlach says this new, noninvasive procedure helps young athletes recover quickly and get back to the sport they love without surgery.
Gage Rydalch is one example.
Rydalch plays baseball for Hillcrest High School. Earlier this year, he got a back injury that would have prevented him from playing with the team.
“I couldn’t lift my leg up to pitch anymore. To bend down — I couldn’t even do that. I couldn’t bend backwards anymore. It was so restricted, the way I moved,” says Rydalch.
After consulting with Dr. Vlach, he was faced with three options. He could wear a back brace for three months or have surgery, both of which would have prevented him from playing baseball. The third option was to give the procedure a try.
The procedure is called Regenexx and is the first of its kind in Idaho. With Regenexx, the patient receives a series of regenerative injections that, Vlach says, facilitate growth and healing using tools already present in the patient’s body.
“The basic concept is to take a sample of the patient’s blood or stem cells, and then process it in a lab with super highly concentrated growth factors, which we then inject directly back in to the patient,” Vlach says.
Vlach says the procedure is performed precisely using X-rays and other imaging guidance systems. Since it does not permanently alter the patient’s body, Vlach says the patient always has the option to come back for surgery if the procedure does not work. Vlach says only two or three cases, out of several hundred, have failed.
Rydalch received the injections in May, and today, he says his back is as good as new.
“It increased my range of motion insanely quick,” says Rydalch. “I was able to play baseball. I didn’t miss any games. I was only out one week of practice.”
Vlach is the only doctor in Idaho licensed to perform this procedure.
She says a sedentary lifestyle and use of technology is to blame for most of society’s pain and discomfort, but it can be avoided through exercise and balance.
“It’s extremely important to have a balanced body, which you get from weight lifting, strength training, yoga, and doing a host of other activities that stabilize the muscles in your body,” she says.