Why So Many Injured Athletes Turn to PRP Therapy

At the time of this writing, Major League Baseball recently got underway in the U.S. Meanwhile, the NHL and NBA are starting to wind down. The one thing common to all three leagues is injury. And as time goes by, more injured athletes are choosing to undergo PRP therapy as an alternative treatment for soft tissue injuries.

San Diego Padres relief pitcher Austin Adams is among the latest round of baseball players sidelined by injury. The 31-year-old reliever appears to have suffered a forearm strain and will be out for at least six weeks. Padres manager Bob Melvin has said Adams will not be throwing the ball for the time being. Adams also appears poised to undergo PRP therapy.

Protecting the UCL

Adams and the Padres medical staff are concerned that the pitcher’s forearm strain might signal future damage to his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). Damaged UCLs are fairly common among Major League pitchers. Unfortunately, UCL injuries can be serious enough to permanently sideline a player. More than one pitcher has undergone the dreaded Tommy John surgery in hopes of coming back from UCL injury.

How does PRP therapy help? PRP therapy is a form of regenerative medicine designed to help the body naturally heal itself. Pro athletes and their doctors have been turning to it as an alternative to more invasive treatments for years. Some of the world’s most well-known athletes swear by it.

In Adam’s case, the thinking is that PRP therapy can help heal and strengthen his forearm. Proper and complete healing should reduce his chances of suffering a serious UCL injury that could ultimately lead to Tommy John surgery at some future date.

What PRP Therapy Does

The pain doctors at Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, TX explain that PRP therapy essentially jump-starts the body’s natural healing process. The therapy also gives the body’s normal healing mechanisms a boost. It does so through blood platelets and growth factors.

When the body suffers a soft tissue injury, blood is immediately sent to the injury site as a precursor to healing. Blood contains platelets and growth factors, both of which are necessary to heal damaged tissue. PRP therapy imitates what the body does naturally. Combining PRP therapy with the body’s own response is believed to lead to faster and more complete healing.

For athletes, this means getting back to competition more quickly. It could also mean not having to go through more invasive procedures. If an athlete can avoid going under the knife, for example, their career could be extended. Recovery time would also be dramatically reduced.

A Safe, In-Office Procedure

PRP therapy is part of a broader category of medicine known as regenerative medicine. Other procedures in the regenerative category include stem cell injections and prolotherapy. Unfortunately, regenerative medicine has gotten a bad rap thanks to a small number of rogue practitioners who have chosen to operate outside of normal protocols.

When done according to established FDA guidelines, PRP therapy is a safe, in-office procedure. It utilizes the patient’s own blood, which is drawn with a needle and then processed in a specialized centrifuge to isolate platelets and growth factors. The resulting material is injected at the injury site where it can signal the body to start healing. Some doctors utilize ultrasound or fluoroscopy to pinpoint the best location for the injection.

More athletes are turning to PRP therapy because it is less invasive and is designed to promote healing rather than masking symptoms. Admittedly, it doesn’t always work. But no medical procedure does. This is why patients need access to every option.

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