Pro Sports and Platelet-rich Plasma

Hines Ward received PRP before the 2008-2009 Superbowl

It can be argued that the public perceives therapy effectiveness favorably when pro athletes credit Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP) for their hastened returns following injury. Tiger Woods, Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu are a few of the superstar athletes who have attributed their expedited recoveries to PRP. While this provides a certain degree of lay press attention for therapy effectiveness, it also has negative implications for the general public.

Star athlete absences cost teams and individuals tens of millions of dollars. Team doctors may use therapies in combination with one another to help ensure faster recovery times. PRP may then be used simultaneously with other accepted and experimental therapies. To what degree PRP is used in relation to other therapies is usually not reported to the public. There is no way of discerning to what extent PRP actually influenced recovery in these instances.

Additionally, the business of pro sports has brought about the use of illegal substances to boost athletic performance and has made some fans and writers skeptical. When it was revealed in December that Tiger Woods had PRP injections in his knee following surgery, misinformation began to circulate: “blood spinning” was classified as “blood doping,” writers stated PRP involved being injected with “calf’s blood,” and PRP was synonymous with HGH (human growth hormone). None of these claims are true, but similar statements still circulate through the blogosphere.  Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta helped set the record straight with a factual segment about Tiger Woods’ PRP use.

In the last year, it has been revealed John Daly, Joakim Noah, Daron Rahlves, Brandon Roy, Blake Griffin, Chris Canty, James Blake and Cliff Lee joined the list of injured pro sports figures who received PRP for various soft-tissue injuries. In this same period, at least five legitimate clinical studies have been published on Platelet-rich Plasma, along with over a dozen articles in highly respected medical journals.

The majority of media attention surrounding PRP does not focus on these clinical studies or journal articles however. The construction worker with severe Achilles tendinopathy is then unaware that he may be back to work sooner because PRP is not exclusive to professional athletics. The mother of four living each day in pain due to arthritis in her knees, is unaware she may be able to soon play with her children without having to get knee replacements.

PRP has far more potential to save jobs and improve lives than it does in aiding pro athletes. While Platelet-rich Plasma therapy remains in development and should be currently offered as a last resort prior to invasive surgery, improving the flow of accurate information will enhance accessibility and effectiveness of PRP.

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