Clinicians specializing in regenerative therapy have been asserting for years now that platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections are beneficial as a treatment for soft tissue injuries. Evidence in support has been limited thus far. However, each new study seems to show encouraging results. The most recent study does just that.
Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University recently studied a group of athletes suffering from hamstring injuries – specifically, grade 2 strains. Their data reveals that athletes treated with a combination of PRP injections and hematoma aspiration fared better than those who received more conservative treatments.
This does not surprise the pain experts at Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, TX. Lone Star recently began offering PRP injections and other regenerative therapies after doing their own research and putting their clinicians through the necessary training.
Boosting the Healing Process
Lone Star’s clinicians explain that the point of regenerative therapies is to boost the body’s natural healing abilities. Specifically where PRP injections are concerned, patients donate their own blood from which platelets and growth factors are concentrated. By injecting those platelets and growth factors into injured soft tissue, doctors believe they are encouraging a patient’s body to start healing the injury.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence in support of PRP therapy, professional athletes have sworn by it for many years. PRP injections have been sought by professional golfers, baseball players, football players, and on and on. Their decisions obviously do not equate to hard science. Still, athletes get paid to be in the game. They tend to do whatever it takes.
More Than a Week’s Difference
Getting back to the study from Thomas Jefferson University, patients receiving more conservative treatment for their hamstring strains demonstrated an average return-to-play time of 32.4 days. Those receiving PRP injections and hematoma respiration were back to competition in 23.5 days. That is more than a week’s difference.
In a highly scheduled sport like basketball or baseball, where multiple games are played every week, getting back into the action a week earlier could make an enormous difference. But even in sports that only play once per week, getting back sooner is a good thing.
Reducing Injury Recurrence
The study’s authors also assert that treating hamstring injuries with PRP injections and hematoma aspiration can reduce injury recurrence. Again, this is huge for athletes. Recurring injuries can be as frustrating as the original injury itself. If a given injury recurs frequently enough, it could end an athlete’s career prematurely.
Assuming reduced injury recurrence is legitimate, it is fascinating to speculate why that might be. Human blood naturally contains a range of growth factors. That’s why the body sends a rush of blood to the site of a typical injury. The body needs those growth factors to begin the healing process.
It could be that introduction of concentrated platelets and growth factors leads to a more complete healing. Simply put, the body may do a better job of healing when it has all the raw materials it needs in plentiful supply. Without a high concentration of platelets and growth factors, the body may have to settle for whatever it can get naturally.
More Research Is Needed
As is always the case with these sorts of studies, there isn’t enough data here to draw any conclusive results. More research is obviously needed. But the data is compelling enough to add credence to clinician assertions that PRP injections are appropriate for soft-tissue injuries.
In the meantime, clinicians are free to continue offering PRP injections and other regenerative therapies as long as they follow established FDA guidelines regulating how autologous biological material is utilized.