In the past decade, several emerging treatments for chronic overuse injuries have been getting attention with runners. Top is platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. This procedure uses cells from your own blood to kickstart the healing Process.
Platelet-rich plasma injection treatments promise a new avenue of treatment for runners with longstanding chronic injuries, which have failed standard conservative treatment.
Platelet-rich plasma in healing
Platelet-rich plasma has been studied as a healing aid in several fields of medicine; initially in orthopedic surgery, where doctors found it boosted healing and decreased blood loss after invasive surgeries like total knee replacements. PRP contains growth factors and proteins that kickstart the healing process in injured or degenerated tissue, and given the success of PRP in orthopedic surgery, it was initially investigated as a treatment for chronic overuse injuries in athletes.
PRP injection for running injuries
Though Peerbooms et al. looked at using PRP to treat tennis elbow, in this study, similar papers have examined using PRP to treat Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and kneetendonitis, all injuries of interest to runners. Peerbooms et al. split a group of 100 patients with chronic tendon pain at their elbow into an experimental group and a control group.
The experimental group received a PRP injection into the painful tendon, while the control group received a similar injection of a corticosteroid anti-inflammatory drug. After the injection, the patients received four weeks of physical therapy before being allowed to return to sport. When the researchers checked in with the patients one year after the treatment, they found that 49% of the control group had made a successful recovery, compared to 73% of the group which received the PRP injection.
Additional studies have found PRP useful in the treatment of chronic Achilles tendonitis, patellar tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis also.
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