Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type



Exercise Science

Director of Thesis

Dr. Christine Pellegrini

First Reader

Dr. Darin Faller

Second Reader

Dr. Darin Faller


Introduction: Osteoarthritis plagues around 27 million Americans. Stem cell injections are a new method of treatment that could potentially cure this by regenerating cartilage in joints. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the perceived effectiveness of stem cells at regenerating cartilage in joints, specifically the knees, hips, and shoulders. Methods: Participants were recruited via social media, forums, and from healthcare clinics that offer stem cell treatments. They were asked to complete a survey focusing primarily on the treatment protocol and how the injured joint felt post-stem cell injection. Frequencies were calculated to describe problematic joints, treatment history, and perceived effectiveness of the stem cell therapy. Results: Twenty-nine people participated in the study. Most were white (93.1%), non-Hispanic or Latino (96.6%), and struggling with an injury due at least in part to degeneration (58.6%). Sixty-six percent were female and 48.3% were between 61 and 75 years old. Fifty-five percent of participants received the injection in the knee, 13% in the shoulder, 8% in the back and 11% in the hip. Most had tried at least one other treatment such as physical therapy unsuccessfully prior. Eighty-three percent of people followed a protocol or schedule from their doctor, which included stem cells with other therapies like platelet rich plasma. Overall, 77% reported success with the stem cell treatment and 72% of the participants would recommend stem cell injections to someone with a similar injury to themselves. Conclusion: Stem cells were perceived to be beneficial for the majority of participants in the study. This study was performed on a small scale so conclusions about effectiveness in general cannot be made. Future studies should examine cartilage regeneration for a longer time and on a larger scale with assessments, including an x-ray or MRI. The evaluations should be performed both prior to and after the stem cell injection.

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© 2020, Delaney Marie Merrill