Researchers to study whether costly therapy touted by big name athletes works better than alternative methods for patients with tennis elbow
A procedure intended to help heal musculoskeletal injuries called platelet-rich plasma therapy, or P.R.P., has created a big buzz in sports medicine and the media in recent years. Tiger Woods reportedly received the procedure for a sore knee and Pittsburgh Steelers' Hines Ward used it for a sprained knee ligament just before playing a key role in the team's 2009 Super Bowl victory.
However, the method - which involves concentrating the platelets in a patient's blood sample and re-injecting them into the injured area to boost the body's own healing powers - is expensive and rarely covered by insurance because it lacks scientific research to back it up.
Researchers at the University of Michigan are taking a step towards answering some questions about the therapy through a new clinical trial exploring how PRP specifically affects tennis elbow (or lateral epicondylitis). People with this condition experience pain from injury and degeneration in the tendon along the outside of the elbow, especially with extending the wrist. It can be caused by overuse or sports related repetitive strain.
"The popularity of PRP has moved faster than the science," says principal investigator Jon Jacobson, M.D., U-M Musculoskeletal Division Director and Professor of Radiology in the U-M Medical School. "Tennis elbow can be a debilitating condition, and the goal of the study is determine whether symptoms are improved in people who receive PRP injections compared to those who receive alternative and much cheaper types of treatment."
Other treatments for tennis elbow, such as corticosteroid injection, have shown little long-term success.