By Jaboner Jackson 12:15 p.m. | Baseball pitcher Zach Britton was the latest athlete to make headlines for use of Plasma-Rich Platelet Therapy (PRPT) for a left shoulder injury last month. NFL players such as Andre Johnson, Troy Polamalu, and Hines Ward, and golfer Tiger Woods have also sworn by the treatment. Since more professional athletes have been making news for undergoing PRPT for injuries, I caught up with our team medical expert, Hassan A. Riaz, MD, MBA, to discuss this treatment.
What exactly is PRPT, doc?
PRPT stands for Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy. This is a treatment that has been around for about a decade but has become increasingly popular for soft tissue injuries over the past four or five years.
Platelets are an integral part of blood. Platelets are responsible for wound healing and the stoppage of bleeding. For example, when you cut your finger, platelets are involved in your body’s response to close the wound. Platelets have been found to have a wide variety of growth factors, which have been found to assist in the healing process. Therefore, PRPT involves injecting a concentrated solution of autologous platelets into an injured site. Autologous means from the same person. Accordingly, in simplest terms PRPT means injecting an athlete’s own concentrated platelets into an injury site to promote healing.
Does PRPT really work?
Studies have been limited and conflicting. Some small studies showed some benefits. Other studies, including a major study published two years ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed no benefit versus placebo for Achilles tendonitis, meaning that an injection of salt water gave the same benefit as PRPT. So even though some doctors swear by it, the medical literature has not demonstrated the clear benefit. Overall, I consider it an alternative therapy rather than a primary therapy because of conflicting data, meaning it won’t hurt to have it done and it might in fact help.
What are some injuries where PRPT might be useful?
Again, it’s not absolutely clear that PRPT is effective. But PRPT might have benefit in soft tissue injuries. This means, sprains, strains, and general inflammation. The effect of PRPT has been studied in plantar fasciitis of the foot, tennis elbow, and Achilles tendonitis, amongst other soft tissue injuries.
My elbow is still bugging me from parkour, Doc? What should I do?
Ice it down, stop by the office, and stop jumping off of buildings.
ABOUT DR. RIAZ: Hassan A. Riaz, MD, MBA is President of Mercy Medical Center outside of Long Beach, CA. He went to medical school at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and did his postgraduate training at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and his assistant will try to get him to respond.