Ask Dr. Skendzel: Will platelet rich plasma injections speed my recovery after an injury?
PRP injections have been touted as a treatment that can speed recovery after a muscle injury. Do they really work?
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections are used to treat muscle damage caused by tendonitis or overuse. The treatment draws the patient’s blood, spins it to a concentration of the blood platelets and growth factors, and reinjects this concentrated blood into the area of damage.
“The theory,” explains Dr. Skendzel, “is that PRP injections have curative properties and speed up recovery time. However, the quality of supporting evidence is poor. Although I don’t think these injections are harmful, in my opinion, the therapeutic uses for PRP injections are very limited. The injections have shown to be helpful for tennis elbow and patella tendonitis—also called jumper’s knee—but study results for other injuries like chronic tendonitis and chronic strain are mixed.”
The most significant shortcoming of PRP therapy is the lack of a standardized agreement about how many platelets and growth factors should be concentrated in an injection dose. “The commercially available centrifuges that spin the blood have different technology and parameters,” explains Dr. Skendzel. “If I take two samples of blood from the same patient and spin each of them down in two different commercial spinner machines, I could end up with two completely different PRP formulas with varying concentrations of platelets and healing factors. This makes it really hard to compare one study to another. One elbow study could indicate no positive response to PRP therapy, while another study using a different centrifuge, a different amount of blood, or different blood processing could report very positive results. How can you compare? It’s like comparing apples to oranges; the results are all over the map.”
Factors causing variables in individual PRP formulas don’t stop at different centrifuges and processing techniques. The PRP formulation can also be influenced ed by the time of day the blood was collected—which affects the hormone levels in the blood—or the stage of a woman’s menstrual cycle at the time her blood is drawn.
“I haven’t done a PRP injection,” concludes Dr. Skendzel. “Admittedly, the NFL and the NHO use PRP all the time—but professional sports medicine operates in unique circumstances. Even without supporting research, professional sports can afford to try whatever options are available, as long as they don’t cause harm. Athletes may claim to feel better after a PRP injection, but without supporting literature, it’s hard to know if there’s a benefit, or if we are seeing the effects of a really expensive placebo.”
The bottom line? A PRP injection won’t hurt you, but there’s no guarantee that it will help you recover more quickly, either.
Sports medicine: Expert bone, joint, and muscle care
From Olympians to pro athletes to youth sports and those that just want to be more active – Summit Orthopedics delivers expert care by fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians. If you are recently injured or concerned about ongoing pain, Summit Orthopedics sports medicine specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely help you get back to being active.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as several additional community clinics.
“An active lifestyle requires superior physical function, and I understand that my patients have exceptionally high standards for their performance and joint health. My goal is to return patients to optimal function so that they can continue to perform and master their personal athletic goals.”
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