NFL News: Does Platelet Rich Plasma Work? Victor Cruz Turns to PRP Injections for Chronic Injury
Posted by Jenn F. on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015
Recently, NY Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz underwent platelet rich plasma treatment for a chronic injury in his left calf that has been acting up since mid-August. He received treatment at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery, but you needn’t go to a hospital to find this type of innovative care.
The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City has been using platelet-rich plasma injection therapy for more than five years now, with hundreds of patients treated successfully for ailments ranging from plantar fasciitis (heel pain) and bursitis to chronic tendinosis and osteoarthritis.
Which Elite Athletes Have Tried Platelet-Rich Plasma?
According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Cruz he is not the only star athlete to go this route.1http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2015/10/victor_cruz_calf_injury_what_is_a_platelet-rich_pl.html The list of elite athletes using platelet-rich plasma injections includes:
- Baseball players Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Cliff Lee, Alex Rodriguez, and Michael Young
- Basketball players Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Kenyon Martin, and Tim McGrady
- Football players Andre Johnson, Ray Lewis, Troy Polamalu, Ruben Randle, and Hines Ward
- Golfers Fred Couples and Tiger Woods
How Do Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections Work?
Blood platelet activation plays an important role in wound healing. PRP therapy works by using a small amount of your own blood which has been spun in a centrifuge to create a greater density of healing platelets. The resulting plasma is then re-injected at the site of injury to stimulate the body’s natural healing and regeneration processes for ligaments, tendons, muscles, and joints. The first applications for PRP therapy were in facial plastic surgery in the 1990s, but usage has since expanded, and PRP is now used to improve function and reduce pain in areas like the elbow, wrist, shoulder, knee, hip, ankle, and foot. Best of all, patients do not show any adverse reactions to the injections other than feeling a bit of a sting for a couple of days. Rest is recommended immediately following the procedure, followed by a stretching and strengthening program (which we also provide at our Manhattan and Westchester offices). The total therapy usually takes about 6-8 weeks and may involve one or two injections spaced out over the course of treatment. If you’re interested in the treatment and would like to know more, take a look at our post on benefits and drawbacks of PRP therapy.
Does Platelet Rich Plasma Work?
Every individual is different and it takes a lot of expertise to determine which patients may benefit most from the application of platelet-rich plasma. Sometimes it is used as a “last resort” for chronic injuries before surgery. In those cases, it seems to have a 50/50 chance of success — which is why insurance companies don’t feel comfortable covering PRP therapy just yet.
Since many applications of platelet-rich plasma are still relatively new, doctors often rely on anecdotal and clinical experience showing general improvement ranging from 80-90% for most patients and issues treated. A few studies are also showing promising results:
- In May 2013, a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that 88% of athletes treated for UCL tears with platelet-rich plasma returned to play without further injury.2http://ajs.sagepub.com/content/41/7/1689.abstract
- A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine in 2013 found that pain and function improvements were noted and that up to 73% of osteoarthritis patients were able to delay progression of the disease.3https://www.hss.edu/newsroom_prp-treatment-potential-for-knee-osteoarthritis.asp
- Another study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association this autumn found that PRP therapy was better at improving function for osteoarthritis patients than surgery or steroid injections.4http://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2210635
“It is not the holy grail in medicine,” Dr Harold Vanderschmidt, an orthopaedic surgeon in Dubai, cautions.5http://www.thenational.ae/arts-lifestyle/well-being/what-it-means-to-treat-injuries-using-platelet-rich-plasma-therapy-its-in-the-blood “It is like any other method – you must have the right patient and the right indication and it will work. Some doctors think it helps for everything and can be injected into any part of the body, but this is not real medicine. You have to have evidence-based studies and do the treatment properly for the patient.”
Unfortunately, a month after his treatment, there is not yet any evidence that the PRP therapy was particularly helpful for Victor Cruz.6http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2015/11/05/still-no-news-on-when-victor-cruz-might-play/ He has only participated in one practice so far and there is no timetable for when he might return to the game.
The Bottom Line
At The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, we look at platelet-rich plasma as another treatment in our tool kit, along with technologies like ultrasound, shockwave therapy, ultrasonic debridement, biopuncture, and others. Most often, PRP is not administered as a stand-alone therapy, but rather as part of a comprehensive healing plan. Contact us to meet with our team of board-certified podiatric surgeons, podiatrists, sports medicine doctors, and physical therapists.
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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.