Platelet-rich plasma injections help young athlete resume active lifestyle

December 01, 2022 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Heroes

Thirty-six-year-old Gregory Harris has always been an athlete. An accomplished basketball player and competitive bodybuilder, he takes great care of his body and works hard for the successes he achieves. Of course, regular participation in sports can lead to injury.

This is how Harris came to see Alex Behar, M.D., physical medicine and rehabilitation physician and sports medicine physician with Edward-Elmhurst Medical Group, for a back injury several years ago. Because of this existing relationship, Harris returned to Dr. Behar when he began experiencing severe knee pain in April 2022.

Dr. Behar diagnosed him with patellar tendinopathy and prescribed conservative measures, such as physical therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, but these treatments didn’t improve Harris to his baseline level of function. Dr. Behar’s next recommendation was platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment.

In PRP treatment, a patient’s own blood cells are used to accelerate healing in a specific area of the body. A blood sample is drawn and then spun to separate the plasma and platelets from other components of the blood. This increases the concentration of growth factors or hormones in the sample.

Under ultrasound guidance, the patient’s own platelet-rich plasma is injected into a specific are of the body that hasn’t responded to conservative treatment measures.

“In a nutshell, research shows that platelet-rich plasma is beneficial for chronic injures,” says Dr. Behar. “Chronically injured tissue doesn’t have good blood flow and the treatment stimulates the necessary blood flow to the injured area.”

Despite being practiced since the 1970s, PRP treatment is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration and may not be covered by most insurance plans. As he would with any procedure, Harris researched PRP treatment before committing to it. Dr. Behar was glad Harris took the time he needed to make a decision that was right for him.

“We’re very patient-oriented and make sure that our patients feel comfortable with their treatment plan, and we understand the financial constraint of this type of procedure,” says Dr. Behar.

As a bodybuilder, Harris soon decided that using his own body’s tissues to promote healing in his knee was the best next step in his recovery. He chose to move forward.

PRP is typically an outpatient procedure, about 30 minutes in length and performed in the doctor’s office. Other than some discomfort at the injection site, Harris reported no side effects and spent a week on crutches afterward before beginning physical therapy.

Over the course of four weeks, he progressed to weight-bearing exercises and a strengthening program. After four weeks, he had a follow-up ultrasound.

“At the four-week mark, Greg had 90% improvement in pain, new blood vessels in the area and I released him to sports activities once PT (physical therapy) was complete,” says Dr. Behar, who explains that he aims for symptomatic treatment for his patients. “I saw him again four weeks later and he was 98% improved in all activities.”

Harris is back to his athletic lifestyle and feeling great. “I’m still feeling 100%,” he says. “I have my same explosive strength, ability to bend and do prolonged sitting; no issues at all.”

Dr. Behar describes Harris as the perfect patient for this type of procedure. “Greg is someone who is committed and motivated to improve,” he says. “One of the reasons I love sports medicine is treating patients like Greg who want to get better and return to doing what they want to do.”

Harris says PRP was worth the cost. He was motivated to invest in himself and choose the best possible treatment for his body.

“You can’t put a price on feeling good,” Harris says. “If I feel like it’s going to work for me, I’m going to give it a try. And it did exactly what it was supposed to do.”

Learn more about platelet-rich plasma treatment at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Alex Behar, M.D., is a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician and sports medicine physician with Edward-Elmhurst Medical Group. View his profile and schedule an appointment online.

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