There is a lot we still don’t know about platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy as a treatment for musculoskeletal injuries. Despite the success demonstrated by numerous athletes and non-athletes alike, there is little compelling evidence explaining why some patients respond very well while others realize little to no benefit from the treatment. One suggestion that has recently come to light is timeliness.
Research recently presented by the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine doesn’t look good for PRP therapy on the surface. But when you dig into the study a little more, you find that what is being reported about the research is only half the story. Data seems to indicate that the timeliness of a PRP procedure may partially influence the efficacy of that procedure.
Delays in Treatment and Recovery
Summary reports of the research explain that athletes, specifically pro-baseball players in this case, experienced significant delays in a return to competitive play when PRP injections were chosen over traditional rehabilitation programs not involving surgery.
The research involved both major and minor league players covering both field positions and pitching. Demographic, injury, and return-to-play data were all considered in the study. Two groups of players were studied: those who chose only traditional rehabilitative programs and those who combined traditional rehabilitation with PRP injections.
While the study did show a correlation between PRP injections and a longer delay in the return to play, it also uncovered a correlation between a delay in getting treatment and how long it took players to get back into the game. Here’s what researcher Aakash Chauhan, MD had to say about that second correlation:
“However, when we critically evaluated this and looked at the delay from the last throw to actually receiving the PRP injection, there is an expected delay in treatment which corresponded as well to the delay we saw in return to throwing, and one can expect in turn this probably propagated down the road in terms of delay in return to play as well.”
Treatment Delays and Effectiveness
Chauhan seems to be suggesting that PRP therapy itself may not be the culprit when a player’s return to play is delayed. The longer recovery time may instead be the result of delaying treatment. That actually makes sense when you consider the general perception of PRP therapy and other regenerative medicine procedures among the general public.
Apex Biologix, a Utah company that provides regenerative medicine equipment and prp kits to doctors, explains that the public still isn’t fully aware of what PRP therapy is and how it can help as a treatment for musculoskeletal injuries. As a result, they are naturally skeptical. The same is true for athletes.
A skeptical athlete might be reluctant to try PRP therapy early on following an injury. That athlete may delay treatment as a result. If it’s true that timeliness influences the efficacy of PRP therapy, then delaying treatment would naturally result in a longer recovery time.
Time for a New Study
In light of what this new research has uncovered, it may be time for another study that specifically targets the timeliness of PRP injections. We already know the importance of selecting the right injection locations to maximize efficacy, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility to think that timeliness is also a factor to consider.
Could the timeliness of treatment determine how well a person responds to PRP therapy? It looks that way. Further research is necessary before we can say for sure, but we now have enough information to suggest that looking further into the timeliness issue is warranted.