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Spinning Blood Isn't Just for Athletes

April 2, 2010

PRP article from Wall Street Journal Spinning Blood Isnt Just for Athletes Beck March 2010Wall Street journal article by Melinda Beck

Golfer Tiger Woods and Kenyon Martin of the Denver Nuggets have both been treated with platelet-rich plasma taken from their own blood and inserted into the site of their sports injuries.

Seattle Mariners pitcher Cliff Lee used it for an abdominal strain. Denver Nuggets power forward Kenyon Martin used it on a strained left knee. Last year, Tiger Woods had injections of it in his left knee before four majors and Pittsburgh Steelers Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward used it to treat a strained calf and a sprained knee ligament before the team’s Super Bowl win.

The treatment, known as platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, is one of a growing number of therapies that enhance the body’s ability to heal itself. A physician extracts about one to two ounces of blood from the patient’s vein and spins it in a centrifuge to separate out the platelets, the part of the blood that secretes growth factors to promote clotting and healing. The doctor injects that platelet-rich plasma back into the patient at the site of injury, where it spurs the repair of injured tissue. Most patients experience relief within several weeks.

PRP, which has been used in dentistry since the 1970s, has caught on only recently for treatment of orthopedic injuries—and on patients outside professional sports, too. It’s sometimes used in conjunction with surgery, but most often by itself, and can sometimes eliminate the need for surgery. While it sounds like science fiction, it is legal for professional athletes to use—since it isn’t injecting foreign or banned substance into the body.

Studies presented this month at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found that PRP was effective at treating chronic tennis elbow, severe Achilles tendonitis and osteoarthritis of the knee.

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