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Whether it’s years of activity on tennis or basketball courts, jogging or running trails, ski slopes or even golf courses, most recreational and competitive athletes start to experience nagging injuries of one kind or another.
Anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, cortisone injections, and rest are among the tried and true treatments, but in recent years a growing group of athletes and active adults have turned to platelet-rich plasma or PRP to help heal stubborn injuries.
Trevor Bullock, DO, a sports medicine specialist with the NorthShore Orthopaedic & Spine Institute, is a leader in the rapidly growing area of regenerative medicine and treatments, including PRP.
PRP is a concentrated form of platelets created by drawing a patient’s own blood and processing it in a centrifuge. The PRP is then injected into the injured area. When an injury occurs, platelets naturally begin the healing process in your body. The platelets release signaling proteins that attract your body’s stem cells to the injured area. By injecting concentrated PRP into an area of concern, your body recognizes this site as a priority, working to heal more quickly and thoroughly.
The whole process is completed in one office visit, generally taking a little longer than an hour.
As PRP has gained more attention and become more popular in recent years, Dr. Bullock shares his knowledge on the latest advances and benefits of the innovative treatment.
“People tend to think all PRP injections are the same, but that’s not exactly true. Over the past decade, there have been many advancements in technology both in how PRP is processed and how we deliver it. We can process a patient’s blood to form a type of PRP that’s tailored to treat a specific orthopedic condition and then use ultrasound to precisely target the damaged tissue,” Dr. Bullock explained.
Among the most common conditions Dr. Bullock treats with PRP are arthritis, especially in the hips and knees; tendinopathy or soft tissue injuries of the rotator cuff, Achilles tendon and plantar fasciitis.
Dr. Bullock said several factors determine who will be a good candidate for successful treatment with PRP:
Results from PRP are not immediate. Stimulating the body’s healing response can take anywhere from two to six weeks and in some cases up to three months. Most patients experience some pain relief and improved mobility within the first one to two months, and the injury can continue to heal, decreasing in pain over a six-month period of time.
The PRP treatment is administered with a topical anesthetic at the injection site, and depending on the injury and the area of the body there can be some mild to moderate discomfort for the next 24 to 72 hours. This is usually controlled with pain medication if needed.
In addition to PRP, Dr. Bullock offers Bone Marrow Concentrate (BMC)/Stem Cell therapy, another regenerative medicine treatment option that is used to help repair muscle, bone, joint, and soft tissue injuries. The bone marrow extraction process is more invasive than drawing blood for PRP, but the therapy can offer a more potent healing response if PRP does not provide adequate relief or improvements in function.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to help patients return to competitive sports or everyday active lifestyles without pain through these treatments,” Dr. Bullock said.