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October 30, 2018

Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP) Treatment for Sports Injuries

Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP) Treatment for Sports Injuries

From: Dr. Christopher Mattern, Westmed Orthopedist

Treatment using platelet-rich plasma (PRP) for healing musculoskeletal injuries and ailments from sports injuries has exploded in popularity in recent years, in part due to its use in high-profile athletes such as Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova and Stephen Curry.

It begins with a standard blood draw in the office setting from a patient’s own blood, which is then centrifuged to remove red blood cells. This treatment , also called “autologous conditioned blood plasma” gained popularity in treating conditions such as tennis elbow, rotator cuff tears, Achilles tendonitis, ligament injuries and osteoarthritis.  Patients turn to PRP to enhance recovery from acute and chronic injuries, avoid surgery, and promote soft-tissue healing, all in an effort to reduce pain and expedite return to sports and daily activities.

Platelets have regulatory proteins and growth factors that play a central role in tissue healing and regeneration. In theory, once injected into the affected tissue, platelets will promote tissue healing by adhering to injured tissue and aggregate to form a clot.  Platelets then release bioactive growth factors which promote tissue repair and regeneration.

Currently, PRP represents an exciting alternative to traditional treatment methods for acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries. While it is well established that the human body has the capacity to heal many acute injuries on its own, chronic musculoskeletal injuries present a unique challenge to both the patient and the clinician.  In many instances, the body does not repair itself and can benefit from interventions to promote healing, particularly when more conventional treatments (rest, icing, NSAIDs, physical therapy) have not succeeded.  In these instances, the patient and clinician, through a shared-decision making process, may consider PRP to stimulate healing of tissues and reduce pain.

Despite the theoretical potential of PRP to cure musculoskeletal injuries, the scientific literature paints a mixed picture of effectiveness. Some studies have reported effective reduction in pain and improved function compared with steroid injections for the treatment of tennis elbow, while other studies showed no improvement.  One study in the treatment of knee arthritis found that PRP was more effective than “gel” injections.

At Westmed, PRP is considered in the treatment of diverse musculoskeletal injuries and ailments and pursued after a thorough discussion with patients about indications for its use and potential risks and benefits.