Since 2006, when Dr. Allan Mishra first began using platelet rich plasma therapy for tennis elbow, the use of PRP has increased exponentially. For anyone reading the sports pages, PRP seems particularly prevalent in big-name players, like the treatment of Tiger Woods’ ACL reconstruction, Kobe Bryant’s chronic knee problem and many, many others. PRP was even used shortly before the Super Bowl to heal a hamstring tear in a Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver. Has PRP become a new sports medicine standard?
What Is PRP?
PRP begins with drawing blood from the patient. Next, a special centrifuge is used to spin down, isolate and concentrate the platelets, special cells in the blood that have healing and growth factors. The concentrated platelets are injected directly into the injured area in order to encourage an accelerated healing response.
Over the years, orthopedic surgeons have discovered that PRP can be used to accelerate healing, allowing a faster return to sports and daily activities. This treatment has become quite popular among sports medicine physicians and athletes alike. In fact, PRP is currently used to treat approximately 25 different diagnoses.
The Future of PRP
Despite its numerous advantages, the one thing PRP lacks is a significant number of double-blind studies conducted on its efficacy. Without this objective evidence, insurance companies are reluctant to cover payment for PRP treatment. Unfortunately, the lack of insurance coverage all too often keeps PRP on the sidelines as far as the average athlete is concerned. However, having seen the positive impact PRP has had on so many of my patients (and even myself), I am a strong advocate for its continued use where indicated, and firmly believe that PRP treatment will show continued success over the years.