Slow-healing injuries like torn tendons and ligaments can sideline an athlete for an entire season, and overuse injuries can keep others in such discomfort that doing daily activities is difficult. A technique relatively new to sports medicine, platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy, is helping those suffering from these common athletic ailments to heal more quickly.
“Platelets have a high concentration of growth factor, so they’re ideal for healing ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones. Not only can they shorten rehabilitation time, they can reduce pain and, in some cases, eliminate the need for surgery,” said Nicholas Phillips, MD, of Samaritan Athletic Medicine Center.
This type of therapy has become extremely more common in sports medicine over the last several years and is showing positive results in treating a variety of orthopedic-related injuries, including osteoarthritis, rotator cuff tears, plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow, ankle sprains, and tendonitis.
The therapy begins by harvesting platelets from a patient’s body via a blood draw. The blood is spun with specialized equipment to separate the platelet-rich plasma from the other components.
Dr. Phillips then injects the injured area with the concentrated platelets under direct ultrasound guidance. The injection procedure itself is very similar to a cortisone shot, but the treatment goal is to promote healing and regeneration, rather than to just decrease inflammation.
“Although there are many applications for PRP, evidence has shown that this technique is most ideal for treating pain associated with chronic tendinosis or tendonitis,” said Dr. Phillips.
Some patients may require multiple injections, while others will see improvement after just one. This depends on the type and severity of the injury.
Surgical colleagues of Dr. Phillips are also using platelet rich plasma therapy in surgery, primarily for ligament reconstructions.
“PRP is helping us accelerate healing for our patients, and we’re pleased to be able to offer this cutting-edge treatment,” said Dr. Phillips. “Overall, PRP is emerging as an effective and less invasive approach for relieving pain and returning patients to their highest function.”
Dr. Phillips is board certified in sports medicine and emergency medicine, and fellowship-trained in sports medicine. His practice includes the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of sports-related injuries. He has particular interest and advanced training in musculoskeletal ultrasound.