After tearing his shoulder in April, Owen Franks' Rugby World Cup hopes looked to be all but over.
With surgery the recommended option, Franks was facing a recovery period of up to six months which would have put him in a race against the clock to get fit for selection.
Instead, he had 100 million of his own stem cells injected into the injured area by Queenstown-based regenerative medicine company ReGen Cellular, and returned to the pitch before the end of the Super Rugby season in early July.
"Obviously a big year this year with the Crusaders and the All Blacks at the World Cup. So for me surgery would be the last option possible just because when you have surgery it's not only the joint that's immobilised, but you have to change your whole training because I've never seen such a decent injury so for me stem cells is the thing I thought of," Franks said.
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"I think it's important when you're an athlete to get as much advice as you can and get all the facts before you make big decisions like having surgery and things like that because ultimately you are in charge of your own career so you've got to make smart choices," Franks said.
The treatment requires only 50 grams of fat removal via liposuction. The fat is then dissolved away, the stem cells are taken out of this and expanded over eight weeks.
After the cells have been expanded to upwards of 100 million they are injected into the injured area to help the tear regenerate.
The process produces many more stem cells than required, allowing clients to store them for later use. The cells can by cryogenically frozen indefinitely and used to help repair damaged joints in the future.
"Rugby is a rough sport, so I am sure down the road I am going to have some wear and tear on the body that I can fix up."