Platelet Rich Plasma getting athletes back on the field sooner

Despite two weeks of intensive physical therapy, it was probably the platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection that got Hines Ward on the field for the Superbowl when the Steelers played the Cardinals. Ward suffered a sprained Medial Collateral Ligament of his knee during the conference championship game. These injuries can often take weeks to heal, but Hines wasn’t about to let it affect his ability to play in the most important game of his life. For this reason, the Steelers Medical Staff pulled out all of the stops, including the use of a new treatment for tendon and ligament injuries.

Tendon and Ligament healing relies on adequate blood supply and cellular migration. Platelet derived growth factors are critically involved in this process.”

Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections to help the body regenerate and heal by harnessing these growth factors. To obtain the PRP, a small amount of a patient’s own blood is drawn. The blood is then spun down in with a centrifuge for a few minutes, which isolates the PRP with growth factors. The PRP isolate is then injected back into the injured area. The goal is to enhance the healing environment by concentrating the essential components of repair from the patient’s own blood, thus limiting side effects and facilitating healing.

Hines Ward isn’t the only professional athlete to reap the benefits of PRP. Takashi Saito, the closer for the LA Dodgers, was able to pitch in the playoffs thanks to a PRP injection into his elbow ulnar collateral ligament, which saved him from a Tommy John Surgery.

What’s most exciting is that these injections aren’t just reserved for professional athletes. Tendonitis affects just about everyone sometime in their life. Whether it’s the rotator cuff, patellar tendon, or tennis elbow, tendonitis is usually the result of overuse of the affected tendon. Usually the condition is temporary and can be easily relieved with rest, ice, and the use of inflammatory medicines (eg. Ibuprofen). Sometimes physical therapy and/or cortisone injections are necessary. That being said, there are times when the pain persists.

PRP first received critical notice in 1998. Most of the work has been done with chronic tennis elbow, which is a common problem for many patients. In one study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, at 2 years after the PRP injection, more than 90% of patients demonstrated a reduction in pain. Most were better within the first 6 months.

It is quite possible that in the near future, PRP injections become a routine part of the treatment algorithm for tendonitis. In patients who fail to respond to anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy, an injection of PRP may save patients a trip to the operating room. “The future looks very promising as we attempt to concentrate these biologically active growth factors at the bedside to help patients in pain. Allowing the body to heal itself is not just logical…it is very effective.”

Posted in: Elbow, Shoulder, Uncategorized