Platelet-Rich Plasma Treatment – a Bust?

hines_ward2Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are something fairly new in the world of sports medicine. It probably received its most press in early 2009 when Pittsburgh Steelers wide-out Hines Ward used it to try and speed the healing of a medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain. Whether or not the treatment actually helped, Ward played in the Super Bowl that year and helped the Steelers win the Lombardi trophy. Apparently Mr. Womanizer himself, Tiger Woods is a fan of the treatment and some Major League Soccer players have utilized the treatment too, but that’s not a real sport so it doesn’t count.

In a nutshell, PRP involves taking some of the patient’s blood and isolating the plasma, which is then re-injected site-specifically into the problem area. The idea is that the platelet-rich plasma encourages the release of cytokines that help spur on tissue healing, thus avoiding the need for surgery. Because the plasma has been isolated and deposited into one spot there is now obviously more plasma than would be there from normal blood concentrations. There are some more particulars about PRP that I won’t go into, mostly because I don’t fully understand it all yet, but also because it is irrelevant for the point of this article.

So far, it sounds like a world-beater, right? Not so fast there Broseph, new research coming out of Holland begs to differ. Granted, Ward and Woods both used PRP for knee ailments, and this study looks into PRP for Achilles tendon healing, but the research concludes that over 24-weeks PRP is no better than saline injections. 54 participants were split into PRP group and placebo group, and over different periods of time filled in the Victorian Institute of Sports Assessment-Achilles questionnaire (which can be found here: More research is needed.

This kinda throws a wrench in the works. But to be honest, if you are covered on your health insurance for PRP and have an existing tendon issue, it really can’t hurt to give it a try rather than going straight ahead with surgery that can take months to recover from, and sometimes requires physiotherapy.

Source: de Vos RJ, Weir A, van Schie HT, Bierma-Zeinstra SM, Verhaar JA, Weinans H, Tol JL. Platelet-rich plasma injection for chronic Achilles tendinopathy: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2010 Jan 13;303(2):144-9.

About the Author

Matt Cahill has worked extensively in the nutritional supplement field, and is the former CEO of Designer Supplements. During his time in the field has researched and developed prohormones, testosterone boosters, and other related compounds, both for his own company and others.