Sports injuries and secondary joint problems, mainly of the knee, are common, especially in sports associated with high impact activities and/or torsional loading. The consequences can be career ending in elite athletes and reduce exercise activities in recreational people. Various cell products can be injected intra-articularly. First, fresh cellular mixtures can be prepared and injected in the same day, such as stromal vascular fraction of adipose tissue (SVF) and bone marrow concentrates (BMCs). Second, autologous mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) can be isolated from BMCs or SVF and, after several weeks of laboratory expansion, several millions of MSCs can be obtained for intra-articular injection. Finally, allogeneic MSCs from the bone marrow, adipose tissue or perinatal tissues of selected donors constitute an 'off-the-shelf' experimental treatment for injection delivery in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. The perceived efficacy of all these products is based on the hypothesis of a paracrine mechanism of action: when living cells are delivered within the joint, they establish a molecular cross-talk with immune cells and local cell phenotypes, thereby modulating inflammation with subsequent modifications in the catabolic/degenerative milieu. Current clinical research examines whether injection delivery of MSCs translates into actual clinical benefits. Overall, clinical studies lack the quality needed to answer major research questions, including clinical and structural efficacy, optimal cell dose, and number of injections and specific protocol for cell delivery. Poor experimental designs are exacerbated by the diversity of patient phenotypes that hinder comparisons between treatments. Further understanding of disease pathology is paramount to develop potent function assays and understand whether the host tissue, the cell product or both should be primed before MSCs are injected intra-articularly.