The use of PRP therapy to treat physical injuries has increased in recent years. Some of the world’s most well-known and celebrated athletes have used it with great success. It has helped the likes of Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez, Troy Polamalu, and Hines Ward return to their respective sports significantly ahead of schedule. Now, those interested in PRP therapy, whether as an advocate of the treatment or as someone interested in its healing abilities, can add one more name to the list, Alex Mark.
Individuals that follow inline speed skating or long track speed skating may be familiar with the name. Those that do not, may become more so after the upcoming Winter Olympics. Mark is an Olympic hopeful for the U.S. team. He is a category 1 level skater, a Jr. National Sprint Medalist and a Jr. World Team Alternate. He finished in 12th place at the 2010 Winter Olympic Trials.
Mark recently underwent PRP treatment to treat “jumper’s knee,” a condition he’d been suffering from for the last 2 1/2 years. Not quite sure what was causing his injury, Mark was diagnosed with having everything from inflammation of the knee, to out-of-place knee tracking, to bursitis. The knee was often taped and braced. While rest seemed to help, the pain would increase during training. After a visit with an L.A. based practice, things began to change. Mark was provided with a “special prototype brace” that helped to manage the pain he would experience during training. However, no real relief was provided because of Mark’s inability to rest the knee.
Alex’s training schedule required him to practice 6 days a week, twice a day for roughly 8 to 10 hours. This causes a tremendous amount of wear and tear on the body. Throw in an injury and continuing to be productive at a high level can be very difficult. It was with this in mind that Alex Mark sat down with his doctors to discuss options other than the use of the brace. They suggested that he give PRP (Plasma Rich Platelet) therapy a try. He agreed and eight days following the procedure, reported feeling extremely well.
PRP therapy involves the use of a patient’s blood components for the purpose of treatment. The specific blood components utilized are the platelets. The platelets contain growth factors that are used by the body for the regeneration of tissue and bones. They are sent out by the body when an injury has occurred to jumpstart the healing process.
A PRP treatment will typically include the use of at least 5 times the amount of platelets and growth factors normally found circulating in the blood. This helps to significantly expedite the healing process.
The procedure is relatively brief and typically takes no more than an hour, from start to finish. A small amount of the patient’s blood is drawn, in Mark’s case, 12 cc. The blood is placed in a centrifuge machine where it is spun until all of the components are separated. The platelets are removed and then injected into the part of the body being treated. In Alex’s case, this was above his right knee.
There typically isn’t much pain associated with a PRP procedure, though Mark did express feeling some “pressure” as the platelets were injected into his knee. He stated,
“The injection itself didn’t hurt, but the pressure that was building as the plasma was injected was slightly uncomfortable. The injection might have lasted 2 minutes. There was slight swelling where the plasma was injected and for about 10-15 minutes after I couldn’t bend my knee without a strong pain sensation.”
Swelling and post-procedure pain are typically minimal (or at least bearable) and should diminish within a few days. A mild pain reliever is typically provided. There are few side effects and no risk of allergic reaction because the platelets used in the procedure were taken from the patient.
The recovery time is generally quite short for a patient who undergoes PRP therapy, though if they are receiving it for a sports injury, they may be required to rest longer than normal because of the injury, not in response to the actual procedure.
Thus far Alex Mark is quite pleased with the results of the PRP treatment he received. He stated,
“Overall I think it has gone well to this point and I hope to see great progress as a result of this injection.”
Update on 11/2/2011: Here is a follow up writeup by Alex Mark that discusses his progress.