Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy: New Solution for Athletic Injuries

athlete, athleticPittsburgh Steelers Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu used their own blood in an innovative injury treatment before winning the Super Bowl. Major league pitchers, professional soccer players and hundreds of recreational athletes have also undergone the procedure, which is called platelet-rich plasma therapy.

Experts in sports medicine say that it could eventually improve the treatment of stubborn injuries like tennis elbow and knee tendonitis.

The technique involves injecting portions of a patient’s blood directly into the injured area, which catalyzes the body’s instincts to repair muscle, bone and other tissue. It even appears to help regenerate ligament and tendon fibers, which could shorten rehabilitation time and possibly eliminate the need for surgery.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) involves injecting platelets, which release proteins and other particles involved in your body’s self-healing process, near an injured area of your body.

The solution contains from three to 10 times the platelets in normal blood, and appears to trigger the growth of new soft tissue or bone cells. And because the blood comes from the patient’s own body, there is little risk of side effects or adverse reactions.

So far PRP seems to be a much less invasive and inexpensive alternative to the surgery often used for tendonitis and other athletic injuries. And it’s shortened recovery time dramatically among the handful of professional athletes who have tried it.

Though this therapy is still new, researchers say it shows promise and doctors in the United States, India, Sweden and elsewhere are currently conducting trials using PRP with rotator-cuff shoulder strains, partial knee-ligament tears and bone fractures.

Already one study published in 2006 in The American Journal of Sports Medicine found that patients who received PRP therapy for tennis elbow had a 60 percent improvement in pain measurements two months later, compared to just 16 percent for the control group.

The process is actually similar to autologous platelet gel, an innovative gel made from patient’s own blood cells, which heals wounds faster and more effectively than antibiotics.

In the case of PRP, the treatment may save countless athletes, from professionals to those who enjoy being active in their spare time, the risks, expense and often ineffective results of surgery.

Unnecessarily Expensive

I did a bit of checking and called the company that manufactures the equipment to separate the RBCs from the platelets. One basically puts this collection container into a high-speed centrifuge and it separates the platelets from the red blood cells.

The process is very similar to what is done when one separates blood from plasma after drawing it for a chemistry profile. The only difference is that the tubes that do the separation cost pennies.

But this company decided to charge $1,000 for each disposable container. So this simple and elegant solution turns out to be relatively expensive because the company that designed the separation media is seeking to make unreasonable and enormous profits from third-party insurance companies.


What Else May Help Athletic Injuries?

Athletic injuries often require no treatment per say, so much as they require rehabilitation, or a chance for your body to heal.

The following techniques will help your body to begin the healing process:

1. Chiropractic. One of your first considerations should be a well trained chiropractor who has special interest in sports medicine. It is no mystery why many if not most professional athletes, including Tiger Woods, get regular chiropractic care. One particularly useful technique is Applied Kinesiology, which is a form of muscle testing. However there are many other tools that they have.  

It is important to do your homework though and ask around for some good recommendations. If you don’t get great results don’t give up, you just may need to try another chiropractor. Personally I receive treatments every week when I am in Chicago and have benefited greatly for a number of injuries I have had.

2. Stretching: Studies have shown that stretching benefits connective tissue, triggers the growth of the protein filaments inside each muscle cell, which is essential to proper body movement, and improves the performance of your "spindle receptors," which help protect your muscles against further injury. A stretching routine should be a regular part of your workout, whether you’re battling injuries or not.

3. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): Traumas and injuries can leave cellular memories in your brain or body tissue that impede normal body movement or function, even after they’re healed. EFT, which is a type of emotional acupressure, helps you to release these “memories,” clearing your body of negative energy and facilitating healing.

4. Whole Body Vibration: Whole body vibration, or WBV, involves standing on a platform that sends mild vibratory impulses, which activate muscle fibers, through your feet and into the rest of your body.

Your muscle spindles fire secondary to the mechanical stimulation produced by the vibrating plate, and this rapid firing of the muscle spindle causes a neuromuscular response that leads to physiological changes in your brain as well as your entire body.

Again, since injuries can leave cellular memories behind, using WBV stimulation allows your body and brain to rapidly de-imprint these old cell traumas, re-imprinting with positive, healthy information. This allows for better and more efficient rehabilitation of injuries from sports than traditional methods of therapy.

All of these methods offer non-invasive and safe ways to recover from athletic injuries. Just be sure to take your recovery seriously, as staying physically active and athletic is one of the best things you can do for your health right now and in the future.

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