The efficacy of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy to treat sports injuries continues to be a topic of debate among both scientists and medical doctors. Still, the market for such procedures continues to grow at an explosive rate. Medical professionals supporting the use of PRP over surgery and pharmaceuticals believe in it 100%, including one doctor who recently wrote in a New York Daily News column that PRP is the “greatest innovation in sports medicine since the invention of MRI.”
Dr. Lewis Maharam writes for the New York Daily News as the ‘Running Doc‘; his column regularly answers questions posed by New York’s many avid runners. His August 21 column was devoted to the efficacy of PRP therapy for persistent patella tendinitis. Dr. Maharam has previously written on the use of PRP therapy to treat injuries sustained by runners.
Blood Is Part of the Healing Process
Maharam began his column by acknowledging how often he receives similar questions from runners. He then went on to explain the PRP procedure, how it works, and why it is a good option for some sports injuries. Perhaps the most important sentence in his entire column was this one:
“In a regular situation when you get cut or injure a body part, it bleeds blood, which contain platelets.”
In the medically detached world in which many of us live, the importance of blood to the healing process is largely unknown. Your average patient sees bleeding as a consequence of cutting oneself, in much the same way a pool of radiator fluid under a car signifies a broken hose. Yet without actually understanding how vital a role blood plays in nearly every biological process of the human body, bleeding becomes more of an inconvenience than anything else.
Blood is indeed important for carrying oxygen and nutrients throughout the system. Blood is absolutely essential for long-term growth. But blood is also a key ingredient in the healing process, which is what PRP therapy focuses on.
Dr. Maharam explained that in the event of injury, the platelets found in blood do two important things to promote healing. First, platelets form clots to stop the bleeding. Second, they send a message to the body to begin sending stem cells to the area of injury. A third thing the doctor did not mention is that blood plasma contains growth factors and nutrients that support the stem cells as they grow into new tissue.
Blood Instead of Shots or Surgery
At Apex Biologix in Murray, Utah, an expert medical staff trains doctors in the use of PRP and stem cell therapies for orthopedic and aesthetic applications. Doctors who undergo training through Apex essentially learn to use a patient’s own blood to promote healing. The word ‘healing’ is key to understanding the appeal of PRP therapy.
The human body wants to naturally heal itself whenever injury occurs. Healing is part of our genetic and biological programming. The problem many proponents of PRP and similar therapies see in modern medicine is that a great deal of the procedures we use to treat things like sports injuries do not actually promote natural healing. Rather, they concentrate on relieving symptoms while the body works out the healing process.
The idea behind PRP is to use a patient’s own blood to promote faster healing without the need for things like cortisone injections, pain medications, and surgical procedures. If the Running Doc is correct about PRP being the greatest innovation in sports medicine since the MRI, it could mean a whole new way of looking at how we treat sports injuries.