Seahawks Insider Blog

Why Doug Baldwin went to England for stem-cell therapy

Doug Baldwin runs onto CenturyLink Field for last week’s preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Seahawks’ Pro Bowl wide receiver tells The News Tribune he went to London this offseason for stem-cell therapy. Baldwin was the first in a trend of Seattle players getting regenerative treatment outside the team’s medical staff.
Doug Baldwin runs onto CenturyLink Field for last week’s preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Seahawks’ Pro Bowl wide receiver tells The News Tribune he went to London this offseason for stem-cell therapy. Baldwin was the first in a trend of Seattle players getting regenerative treatment outside the team’s medical staff. jbessex@gateline.com

RENTON Turns out, Doug Baldwin started this current Seahawks fad of traveling outside the team’s normal medical coverage to get far-flung treatment using body cells.

The Seahawks’ No. 1 wide receiver told me Monday he went overseas before this season -- to England, to be exact -- for pre-emptive, preventative treatment to maintain healthy knees.

“I had mine in the offseason. I did stem-cell,” Baldwin said, drenched in sweat in the hallway outside the team’s locker room just after completing Monday’s practice.

“I mean, I don’t have any ailments. I’m trying to find every edge I can get.”

Baldwin, Seattle’s $46 million receiver, tied Bobby Engram’s 2007 franchise record with 94 receptions last season. He earned his first Pro Bowl selection. In 2015, the season that led to his contract extension, he co-led the NFL with 14 touchdown catches.

He said he’d been looking into stem-cell therapy for years.

Transplanting or using bone marrow is the most widely used stem-cell therapy to treat or prevent a condition or disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration further explains “stem cells may also help repair the body by dividing to replenish cells that are damaged by disease, injury, or normal wear.”

So why London for Baldwin?

The FDA, as stated on its website, has not approved any stem cell-based products for use in this country other than using human umbilical cord blood forming stem cells for certain diseases.

“There was a company we’d be speaking to,” Baldwin said of the London place he got treatment, without wanting to disclose many details. “Did my research. Took my two years to finally decide.”

In the last two weeks, seven Seahawks have gone away and outside the team’s regular medical treatment to get a debated blood-re-injection process called regenokine to treat aching joints and/or aid in recovery from surgery. The treatment was founded in Germany, where it’s known as orthokine.

K.J. Wright returned last week from regenokine treatment, the re-injection of one’s blood after it is heated and spun in a centrifuge to enhance its anti-inflammatory properties. The Pro Bowl outside linebacker played in Seattle’s exhibition last Friday against Kansas City.

D.J. Alexander the Pro Bowl special-teams player the Seahawks acquired this summer in a trade with Kansas City, went for regenokine treatment last week.

On Monday, coach Pete Carroll said wide receiver and kick returner Tyler Lockett, Pro Bowl defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, starting left guard Luke Joeckel and starting outside linebacker Michael Wilhoite are away from the team getting the same treatment Wright and Alexander had. Carroll said the team expects all those players to be ready for the opening game Sept. 10 at Green Bay.

That process reportedly costs $10,000. That doesn’t count the travel and hotel costs of flying to get the therapy, of course. The FDA has yet to approve regenokine for use in the U.S., largely because it’s still unproven and reportedly because the agency has issues with the heating of the blood.

That is probably why Carroll said this on Thursday: “I’ve never had the OK that I can talk about it; I don’t even know if I can talk about it. I was always afraid I wouldn’t pronounce it right. But what I know it’s called is regenokine.”

Dr. Peter Wehling in Germany, the man who founded the procedure known there as orthokine, was said in 2013 to have treated 30 to 40 NFL players with it. At that time the treatment process took four days, which could explain why Wright and his Seahawks successor have been missing a week of practices and games this month for it.

LifeSpan Medicine, clinic in Santa Monica, California, with offices also in New York and Dallas, lists regenokine as one the “regenerative” therapies it practices -- again, without FDA approval for use in this country.

Carroll said this on Monday:

Baldwin turns 29 next month. The opening at the Packers will begin the second season of the four-year, $46 million extension he signed in the summer of 2016. He looked ready for the 2017 season in Seattle’s most recent preseason game, Friday against Kansas City. He had two catches for 45 yards in 2 1/2 quarters, racing across the field and away from Chiefs defenders.

He’s only missed two games in his six-year career. Those absences were in his second season, 2012, after Seattle signed him as one of the league’s most successful undrafted free agents of the last decade.

Now, he’s one of the trend-setters among eight Seahawks who’ve received alternative therapy.

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