Growing Popularity of Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections

What are the benefits of PRP treatments?

How would you respond if someone asked you what Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Hines Ward, Rafael Nadal and Alex Rodriguez had in common? The easy answer would be that they were super stars in their respective sports; Bryant in basketball, Ward in the NFL, Nadal for tennis, Rodriguez, baseball and Woods, of course, for golf. In fact, Tiger Woods recent win at the Masters will forever have a spot in sport’s comeback history book!

One of the reasons Woods’ win at the Masters was such an emotional experience for him and everyone watching had to do with the injuries that he had to overcome to be able to, once again, compete at that level. And that brings us to the answer that we were actually looking for to our original question: all of these icons of professional sports have used platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to help them recover sooner from injuries and avoid additional surgeries.   

What Is Platelet-rich Plasma?

Plasma is the liquid part of the blood that contains the red and white blood cells. It also contains the platelets, which are rich in the growth proteins that play a role in the healing process, as well as being responsible for clotting. Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, is exactly what it sounds like. The platelets are removed from a small quantity of blood and then put through a process which results in them becoming more concentrated. The platelets, now in their richer form, are returned to the remaining blood sample and can then be injected into areas where there is injury.   

Some of the specific conditions that are being treated with PRP include:

  • Achilles tendon injuries, which is one of the conditions that Tiger Woods was given PRP injections for
  • arthritis
  • wound healing
  • ligament and tendon injuries
  • lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
  • medial epicondylitis (golf elbow)
  • inflammation of the patellar (kneecap) tendon at the knee (jumper’s knee)
  • rotator cuff tendonitis (shoulder)

Benefits of Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections

While research is ongoing to develop a more thorough understanding of the best ways to use PRP injections and to more accurately determine its effectiveness, the number of people who report successful outcomes with the procedure are growing. Currently, platelet-rich plasma injections have been reported effective in several ways, including:

  • Reducing pain levels
  • Increasing the potential for greater level of healing
  • Quicker improvements in returning functioning to normal
  • Faster overall recovery from injury
  • Avoiding surgery

An additional benefit to the use of PRP is that the process does not involve anything other than the individual’s own blood and is only minimally invasive. This negates any risk of adverse reaction or problem with the body’s immune system. Local anesthesia is all that is required to numb the site of the injection and, for most people, there is only mild discomfort, if any at all. As long as the procedure is performed by an experienced professional in a sterile environment, the outcome should be positive, or, at the very least, not cause any harm.

If you have questions about PRP or about any foot or ankle concerns, Dr. Christopher Hubbard is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon and is the former Chief of the Foot and Ankle Service at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in NYC. To schedule an appointment, or if you just have questions, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here.