FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn, who underwent knee surgery Nov. 29 but will play Saturday against Carolina, utilized stem-cell treatment to help return to the field faster than anticipated.
Clayborn suffered a meniscus tear and a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee. He had the initial surgical procedure in New York to repair the meniscus damage. The surgery included platelet rich plasma injections -- also a form of stem-cell treatment -- which involves spinning the patient's own blood to separate the platelets and injecting them into the injured area.
Then last Monday, Clayborn flew to Arizona for the stem-cell injections. It was a 20-minute procedure that aims to regenerate the tissue and allow the knee to heal faster while preventing scar tissue. Stem cells are the body's raw materials, cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated.
"I just heard from a lot of different players that it's worth doing," Clayborn said. "It was just going there, getting the shots in the knee, and letting the shots do their work. The team fully supported it."
Clayborn, who missed the last three games after suffering the injury against the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 27, returned to practice this week.
"From the moment I started running last week, nothing hurt," Clayborn said. "It was a little bit of awkwardness, but no pain or no nothing. And then this week, we started actually practicing. Last week I did some drills, but [Wednesday] was my first day really practicing and going against other people. I felt like myself."
Clayborn initially was expected to return for next week's season finale against New Orleans. However, the timetable shifted thanks to the surgery, the stem-cell injections and his loyalty to using his $24,000 hyperbaric recovery chamber.
"That was his goal all along was this game; ours was maybe the next one," coach Dan Quinn said. "He wasn't hearing that and really put the time in to get ready. His knee is strong. He feels great. And he looked terrific in practice. We're pumped to have him back."
Clayborn's return should help the Falcons put the heat on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who has struggled under pressure this season. Dwight Freeney was the only Falcon to sack Newton back in Week 4, a 48-33 Atlanta win.
Clayborn's 15 quarterback hits are tied for the team league along with Vic Beasley Jr. Clayborn has 4.5 sacks, second behind Beasley's 14.5, which also lead the league.