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Published on October 20, 2023
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle Turns to Panamanian Stem Cells for Enhanced Performance & RecoverySource: Getty Images / Michael Zagaris
George Kittle in the 49ers locker room before a game at Levi's Stadium on October 8, 2023

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle is known for many things. He is widely considered among the top one or two players at his position, and his personality off the field might be even bigger. Kittle's health and fitness regimens have appeared in Men's Journal and he's released impressive videos of his intensive workouts through social media. Niners Nation once wrote, "There’s football players working out and then there’s Kittle working out. They are not the same." Today, a very different strategy to maintain peak physical ability is making headlines for the storied Niners player. Kittle has integrated stem cell treatments, sourced from Panama, into his health management strategy. He believes this controversial tactic contributes to positive outcomes regarding his performance and recovery.

According to a GQ interview, George Kittle revealed that he turned to stem cells for injury recovery. When discussing his injury-plagued 2020 season, Kittle mentioned using stem cells as part of his rehabilitation process. "I go to a place down in Panama, the Stem Cell Institute. I've been down there for three years now... if I'm getting stem cells, it's helping me somehow. There's no way it's not doing anything," says the high-performing tight end. Kittle attributed his successful, accelerated five-week recovery from a foot injury to the use of stem cells, although he clarified that he wouldn't claim it as the sole contributing factor to his healing process.

Over recent years, Kittle frequents Panama's Stem Cell Institute, receiving treatments constructed from donated umbilical cord tissue. He maintains that these treatments have directly accelerated his recovery from numerous injuries, according to Insider.

Despite a lack of FDA approval for stem cell therapy in sports injuries, there's a rising body of research that suggests the potential for stem cells to aid in the repair and regeneration of damaged joint tissues. In fact, a 2022 study funded in part by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has shown promise in using stem cells to repair damaged joint tissue in a pig model. The study, published in Regenerative Medicine, demonstrated that modified stem cells implanted into experimentally damaged knees successfully integrated with the tissue and repaired the damaged cartilage. After six months, the repaired tissue exhibited the physical and molecular characteristics of undamaged cartilage, with added thickness and compressibility. The study also found that the injected cells stimulated the pig's body to produce its own cartilage cells for further damage repair. Another study published in Nature - largely considered to be the top medical journal, revealed that the presence of fatty acids in the blood signals to stem cells whether to develop into bone-forming cells or cartilage, thereby showing a potential to aid repair of both damaged joints and the bones themselves.

Besides innovative treatments, Kittle's health regimen also contains key dietary considerations, he informed GQ. Conscious of the elements under his control, such as nutrition, he has shaped his diet to support optimal physical functioning; introducing specialized supplements, limiting red meat intake, and curbing dessert consumption.

At the core of Kittle's approach to his performance is understanding the significance of maintaining his calorie count. Having entered the NFL as an undersized tight end, he learned from his father the crucial role of controlling calorie and protein intake. His transition from a newcomer to a four-time Pro Bowler can mostly be attributed to the shifts in his diet, which evolved from indiscriminate eating to consciously aimed at career longevity.

"Pre-hab" or injury prevention holds a strong position amid Kittle's health game plan. He regularly utilizes methods such as blood-flow restriction, red light therapy, cold plunges, and saunas.

Whether aided by stem cells, red light therapy or just his sheer will power (and let's be honest, incredible workout intensity combined with top-notch awareness on the field), George Kittle's stats are undeniably impressive and demonstrate his exceptional talent as a tight end. Throughout his career, Kittle has consistently performed at a high level, contributing greatly to the success of the San Francisco 49ers. With a career total of 413 receptions for 5,470 yards and 34 touchdowns, as well as numerous Pro Bowl selections, Kittle has established himself as one of the most dominant players at his position. This season alone, he has garnered attention with 18 receptions for 216 yards and three touchdowns in just five games. Kittle's statistics highlight his ability to make impactful plays and showcase why he is considered among the best players in the NFL.