Breakthrough Treatment Shows Promise in Football Injuries

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    The Sports Medicine Clinic at the University of Virginia Health System is using a cutting-edge therapy called platelet rich plasma (PRP) to help heal injured ligaments, tendons and muscles.

    PRP therapy has gained some national media attention because of its use with high-profile, professional athletes. These include Troy Polamalu, strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers; Hines Ward, wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers; and former defensive lineman for the UVA Cavaliers Chris Canty who is now a defensive lineman for the New York Giants.

    “PRP treatment is ideal for both elite athletes and weekend warriors,” said David Diduch, MD, professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at UVA Health System. “Our goal is to speed up the healing process and possibly prevent the need for invasive procedures like surgery.”

    PRP treatments involve drawing a small tube of blood from a patient’s arm. The blood is spun in a centrifuge to concentrate the platelets, which are injected into the injured area. Platelets contain growth factors which are important for tissue healing. The injection causes the body to respond with an inflammatory process that will ultimately aid in repairing tissue.

    “Since the injection is derived from the patient’s own blood, there is no chance of adverse reaction to drugs or chemicals. PRP is very safe,” Diduch explains.

    Two studies appearing in The American Journal of Sports Medicine highlighted the risk of youth sports injuries that student athletes may experience on the playing field. One of the studies focuses on football injuries in high school and college football players. The other tracks traumatic head injuries in various sports.

    Football is the top scorer when it comes to racking up sports related injuries, according to the study. But high school and college players may face very different injury risks.

    Researchers found high school football players suffered more than half a million injuries nationwide during the 2005-2006 seasons. And they were more likely to suffer season-ending injuries, such as fractures and concussions, than those who play collegiate football.

    But college football players were nearly twice as likely to become injured during practice or a game compared with high school players.

    As one of the most popular sports in the U.S., it’s played by more than a million high school athletes and 60,000 collegiate athletes.

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