Why Tiger Woods, Other Athletes Have Undergone 'PRP' Treatment

In his Monday afternoon news conference, Tiger Woods mentioned the PRP treatment he underwent to help his injured knee to heal.

To those who pay attention to such things, the PRP disclosure was not new, but to casual Tiger watchers it may be. It may also be a great opportunity to talk with supporters and detractors of the treatment.

PRP is short for platelet-rich plasma. In a PRP treatment, the patient gives up a sample of blood, a tech spins the platelets from the blood, then a doctor re-injects the now enriched blood back into the same patient's injured area.

Tiger's PRP treatment raised eyebrows because the doctor who administered it was later arrested on charges that he possessed human growth hormone.

To be clear, there is nothing illegal about most PRP treatment. A triathlon devotee's Web site explains that "as of January 1, 2010, the only form of platelet rich plasma injection that is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is the intramuscular injection of PRP due to a concern that the PRP injection may be used to mask other banned performance-enhancing drugs such as human growth hormone."

In January, The New York Times ran a piece saying the PRP treatment is no more effective on some injuries than saltwater.  But don't try to tell that to the legions of supporters who say the treatment has cured them of nagging orthopedic injuries. Big name athletes have recently claimed that the treatment revived their careers.

The American Journal of Sports Medicine said the claims may lead some to believe the initials stand for platelet-rich panacea

But there are some injuries, such as tennis elbow, for which PRP may hold promise. A 2006 study said that the "treatment of patients with chronic elbow tendinosis with buffered platelet-rich plasma reduced pain significantly in this pilot investigation. Further evaluation of this novel treatment is warranted. Finally, platelet-rich plasma should be considered before surgical intervention."

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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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