In the recent years, elite athletes like Alex Rodriguez, Closer Joe Nathan and golfer Tiger Woods have undergone the new fad in rehabilitation called Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy. Rodriguez underwent a treatment of these injections last month in Germany for chronic problems in his knee and shoulder. In Europe, and now recently in the United states, an increased trend has emerged of using the PRP injection because its promising alternative to surgery and decreases time on the DL. So I thought I’d write a quick little note about it since you’ll start to hear more and more about this treatment in baseball and other sports.
So first of all lets start with what the heck are platelets?
Basically blood has 3 components: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Plasma is the liquid component of the blood, mostly its made of water (which is why you should drink it more!) Platelets are mostly thought of as clotting agents…they help form the scab sick people like to pick. However they do so much more than that by removing dead tissue, promoting healing, and regenerating healthy tissue. Normally 6% of blood is made of platelets, however PRP works by increasing the percentage to 94%.
The idea is that if you put a concentrated amount of the good stuff into an area thats not healing, good things will happen.
In the baseball world, the injection is being used for players with chronic tendonitis in the knee, shoulder, wrist, elbow and ankle. When tendons have to overwork ( like throwing 90 miles an hour over a hundred times) time and time again, they can thicken and become injured. The injured tendons heal by scarring down, which actually makes the tendon less able to perform a task like throwing a baseball. Tendons have very poor blood supply and therefore don’t heal well. So what sports medicine doctors are doing is drawing blood from the player, spinning the blood and removing all the red and white blood cells, and injecting the platelets into the specific tendon that has scarred down. This then jump starts healing.
Players that have the injection are usually then instructed to not move or use the joint for up to 6 weeks. After that they are freed to go back to baseball activities. The benefits are that you are using your own blood, and it can be a much quicker recovery than having surgery. Of course PHYSICAL THERAPY is a very important step before and after the injections to prevent the problem from coming back.
Keep your eye out this season for the PRP injection….