Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Ankle FAQ

Question:

I'm looking into the possibility of having platelets injected into my torn Achilles tendon. It's supposed to help things heal faster. As a semi-pro golfer, I need to get back on my feet quickly. I can't afford anything that's going to hurt my stance or my swing. What do you know about this treatment?

Answer:

In the last few years, scientists have discovered that injecting platelets from blood into damaged tendons helps them heal faster and better. This has been good news for professional athletes like yourself who are eager to get back to work on the playing field (or golf course as in your case). Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) (also known as blood injection therapy) is a medical treatment being used for a wide range of musculoskeletal problems. Platelet-rich plasma refers to a sample of serum (blood) plasma that has much more than the normal amount of platelets. This treatment enhances the body’s natural ability to heal itself. It is used to improve healing and shorten recovery time from acute and chronic soft tissue injuries. Blood injection therapy of this type has been used for knee osteoarthritis, degenerative cartilage, spinal fusion, bone fractures that don’t heal, and poor wound healing. This treatment technique is fairly new in the sports medicine treatment of musculoskeletal problems, but gaining popularity quickly. There haven't been too many studies using PRP for the Achilles tendon. Reported results have been mixed. One study showed that patients were able to get back on their feet and return-to-sport activity faster than athletes undergoing traditional treatment. But a second study from Sweden could not reproduce those same good results. In the Swedish study, they used platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections in the Achilles tendon of 16 patients. They were not all professional athletes but the injury did occur while engaged in recreational sports. Results were compared to another group of patients who also had a recent Achilles tendon rupture (within three days). The second group was the control group -- they did not have the PRP injection. Patients in both groups ranged in age from 18 to 60 and were in good general health. The authors were surprised to find no differences between the two groups. The PRP group did not heal faster or have a stronger Achilles tendon at any point in the follow-up. In fact, if anything, the PRP group had slightly worse functional results. Functional refers to their ankle motion, ability to rise up on toes, and jump vertically. The PRP group did not see themselves as limited in daily activities but there is still a concern that their risk of re-injury is greater than normal. Platelet-rich plasma as a treatment for tendon injuries is still a new enough approach that all variables and factors have not yet been discovered. You may be a good candidate for this treatment. Check with your sports surgeon and see what he or she has to say. Each patient is different and may have a unique response to this type of treatment. Thorsten Schepull, MD, et al. Autologous Platelets Have No Effect on the Healing of Human Achilles Tendon Ruptures. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. January 2011. Vol. 39. No. 1. Pp. 38-47.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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