“Golf is a game of a lifetime. I hope to play for my lifetime,” Jack Nicklaus said during an interview on Friday with CNN.
As such, the game’s most decorated major champion revealed that he took incredible measures to assure that he could continue to play the game his name is synonymous with well into 80s. In February 2016, Nicklaus traveled to Germany to undergo experimental stem cell therapy in Munich, Germany. Four days later, he was back in Jupiter, Florida teeing it up in his annual fundraiser, The Jake.
— New Scientist (@newscientist) April 28, 2018
Nicklaus has struggled with back pain since his teenage years and, as it does with many golfers, the pain only increased with age. By 2016, Nicklaus described the pain in his back at an 8 or 9 out of 10 and was willing to try anything and everything to relieve some pain.
Nicklaus’ relationship with back pain dates back to before he even turned professional. He had nine cortisone shots in his back by the time he was 19. He played with some kind of back pain through most of his career. At 64 years of age, Nicklaus underwent minimally invasive back surgery to relieve the pressure on his spinal nerve roots, but that still wasn’t enough.
After meeting Dr. Eckhard Alt, a stem cell pioneer, at a birthday party in 2015, Nicklaus read up on the doctor and his work and went under the knife a few months later. The stem cells were extracted by liposuction from Nicklaus’ abdominal area. The stem cells were isolated, checked for contamination and then reinserted into Nicklaus’ lower back – 10 injections on either side of his lumbar spine and four into his neck.
Despite the injections into his back, Nicklaus said the extraction from his abdomen left the biggest mark. “I mean, I was black and blue from the middle of my chest all the way across my hip down to my groin. And uh, it was not pretty for about 10 days,” he said.
So why had no one heard about the “secret” stem cell surgery? “I didn’t keep it private,” Nicklaus said. “No one asked me about it.”
“We at Sanford believe in the work that Dr. Alt has and continues to do, and have the resources to apply scientific rigor to stem cell research.” – Dr. Mark Lundeen, Chairman at Sanford Health Department of Orthopedics https://t.co/eM3jL9vrv6
— Sanford Health (@SanfordHealth) April 27, 2018
And did it work? While Nicklaus said there wasn’t “immediate relief,” he did say that in the months that followed the surgery his pain subsided and that he is a true believer in stem cell usage.
“The pain I used to feel while actively playing golf had subsided after a few months,” Nicklaus said. “I’m not a doctor, but I think that stem cell is going to change… the direction of orthopedics, totally.”
Nicklaus believes in the $10,000 procedure so much that he’s already scheduled and underwent his second round of stem cell injections with Dr. Alt on Saturday, this time focussing on his right shoulder.
Whatever the method or the price tag, we can all agree that having Jack Nicklaus swinging a golf club as painlessly as possible is the best possible outcome.