Over the past few years, there has been much mention of an emerging treatment and technology in the field of sports medicine known as Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP). Several high profile athletes including Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal have reportedly undergone PRP for various injuries such as inflamed knees or tendon issues. In the past, this sort of injury would have been treated with medication, physical therapy, or sometimes surgery, but PRP offers a new approach. Wimbledon Clinics’ sports physicians are experts in the use of PRP.
What is PRP?
As well as plasma, red cells and white cells, blood is made up of platelets – components which are renowned for their role in helping blood to clot. Additionally, platelets contain proteins called growth factors which can help speed up injury recovery. PRP is plasma, enriched with a higher concentration of platelets and used to relieve pain and kickstart the healing process. As it is autologous blood (blood taken from the patient’s own body), many people feel more comfortable with PRP treatment than with the idea of undergoing alternative treatments such as steroid injections.
What does PRP treatment involve?
A blood sample is taken from the patient’s arm and placed in a centrifuge. As the different components of blood all have different weights, they settle into layers, allowing us to draw off the layer in which the platelets gather – this is the platelet-rich plasma – and inject it into the site of injury. The growth factors are believed to help do a number of things, such as stimulating the recovery of tissue and increasing blood flow and collagen production, aiding the recovery of injured tendons, muscles, tissues and cartilage.
Some collection systems may allow leucocytes (white blood cells) to get mixed up in the PRP, but at Wimbledon Clinics, our method ensures that we only collect plasma containing platelets and leave the white blood cells (which can promote inflammation) behind. This type of PRP is called leukocyte-poor plasma.
At Wimbledon Clinics, PRP can be administered in the outpatient department and is often given as a course of two or three injections, separated by a week or two.
Who is PRP for?
In theory, PRP can be used for patients with a range of injuries such as tennis elbow, Iliotibial band syndrome or any tendon or ligament injury as long as it hasn’t been completely torn. It can help reduce the recovery period as well as minimising the chances of re-injury or progressive damage which might end up leading to surgery. However, PRP has proved particularly useful for those affected by osteoarthritis in the knee. A recent study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, carried out in conjunction with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), confirmed that there were very few potential downsides to treating an osteoarthritic knee with PRP.
At Wimbledon Clinics, we see large numbers of people in the 40-60 age range, many of whom are keen to remain active yet are struggling with arthritic knee pain. This can not only prevent them taking part in sports like running, skiing and tennis, but can even make activities such as walking or gardening a challenge.
For some of these patients, it might not be an option to take regular anti-inflammatory medication; others might be concerned about the potential side-effects that can occur with treatments such as steroids. Additionally, regular steroid injections for an arthritic knee can often only provide only short term relief. Some people may choose arthroscopy, others may need surgery such as a replacement or partial knee replacement. However, for those people who are experiencing mild to moderate pain and inflammation from their arthritic knee, yet are not at the stage where they need surgery, PRP could be a viable option.
To learn more about PRP and how it could help to relieve an arthritic knee or speed up the healing of an injury, contact our sports medicine specialists at Wimbledon Clinics today. Telephone: 020 8629 1889 option 1