NEW YORK -- Following a tip from basketball star Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodriguez traveled to Germany earlier this month for experimental treatments on his troublesome right knee and left shoulder, the Yankees confirmed on Wednesday.
With the club's approval, the Yankees third baseman was seen by Dr. Peter Wehling to undergo an Orthokine procedure during a Dec. 5-9 trip to Dusseldorf, general manager Brian Cashman said during a conference call with reporters.
Rodriguez's treatment was first reported by the New York Post. The three-time American League MVP heard about Wehling from Bryant, who has credited Orthokine with healing his right knee and left ankle to help him stay on the hardcourt for the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Kobe had maintained, according to Alex, that he felt significantly better because of it," Cashman said. "Alex was interested in pursuing it as long as the Yankees' medical staff was comfortable with it and vetted the process. He basically asked us to look into it."
Rodriguez, 36, reached out to the Yankees in November about the process. Team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad headed the research, checking Wehling's background as well as contacting the Lakers' medical staff to learn more about their experience with Bryant.
Major League Baseball was also consulted to avoid the appearance that Rodriguez might be receiving impermissible treatment.
Cashman said that the procedure is considered legal, is in compliance with the regulations of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and is currently being practiced in the United States. Wehling's reputation led the Yankees to send Rodriguez overseas.
"Ultimately, Kobe Bryant went with this individual in Germany," Cashman said. "The more our doctor researched on it, the more impressed he was with this guy's credentials and his reputation. Obviously, Alex is our biggest investment, so we agreed to allow him the extra miles to have it done in Germany."
Orthokine involves taking blood from the patient's arm vein and spinning it in a centrifuge to isolate protective proteins. That solution is then injected into the afflicted area once or twice a week; in this case, Rodriguez's knee and shoulder.
"A lot of athletes I've talked to really think this stuff works, but we really don't have a lot of scientific knowledge behind it of exactly what's happening," Dr. Jonathan Glashow, the co-chief of sports medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, told the Post.
It's a great way to reduce inflammation and therefore pain, and that's the essence of it. I think a lot of the athletes who have wear-and-tear on their knees benefit from this. You do it for awhile, and if it doesn't stay good you do it again in a few years."
Cashman characterized Rodriguez's shoulder ailment as minor and something that they decided to take care of while Rodriguez was in Germany to address the knee.
"I think this is more about maintaining health going forward, rather than having any problems at the present time," Cashman said.
Rodriguez is continuing offseason workouts and is expected to be ready for Spring Training. Hitting coach Kevin Long said that he plans to travel to Miami to begin working with Rodriguez next week.
"I think he's 100 percent right now, personally," Cashman said.
Rodriguez battled through what he called his most frustrating season in 2011, batting .276 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs in 99 games.
"Hopefully going forward he'll be healthy for us again, because when he is healthy he's obviously one of the best players in the game," Cashman said. "Maybe this is an avenue that helps maintain his health.
"There's clearly a belief system that this type of treatment is beneficial, and if it is, it was time well spent. If it isn't, nothing ventured, nothing gained."
Rodriguez missed 38 games after being placed on the disabled list on July 14, retroactive to July 8, to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn right meniscus.
In Rodriguez's first game back from the DL on Aug. 21, he suffered a sprained left thumb while fielding a ground ball. He batted just .191 (13-for-68) after returning from the DL and was 2-for-18 (.111) in the AL Division Series loss to the Tigers.
"I've got a lot of work to do personally," Rodriguez said after the ALDS. "I've got to get my health back and I know exactly what I have to do to help this team get back to the top."
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