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Study Supports PRP Injections as an Option for ACL Injuries

It is no secret that professional athletes often turn to regenerative medicine to help them recover from injury and get back to competition faster. There may be some legitimate science behind the practice. For instance, a study published in January 2024 supports platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections as an option for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries.

Mixed Reviews for Regenerative Medicine

Regenerative medicine gets mixed reviews from healthcare professionals. That is not without reason. Mainstream regenerative therapies, like platelet rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell injections, have not been studied as extensively as more traditional treatments. When a study does show that a particular treatment seems to work, the tendency is to dismiss it. Let us hope that this is not the case with the previously mentioned study.

More About the Study

A number of researchers from Juntendo University in Tokyo conducted a retrospective survey of patients undergoing conservative PRP treatments after suffering acute ACL injuries. All the participants were highly active athletes hoping to return to competition quickly and with minimal risk of reinjury.

Researchers administered PRP injections within six weeks of injury. Following the injections, patients were instructed to wear knee braces that limited deep flexion but not weight bearing. The goal was to get each patient back to pre-injury condition as quickly as possible.

They also adjusted additional PRP treatments and rehabilitation modalities based on the concept of gradually allowing patience to return to normal levels of activity. Along the way, researchers relied on MRI to make the final call as to when a particular patient could return to their sport. Note that the average patient age was 32.7 years and patients received an average of 2.8 PRP injections.

Here are the results in a nutshell:

  • MRI testing confirmed that ligament continuity was restored in every patient.
  • All patients returned to pre-injury health and activity level.
  • The average full return time was 139.5 days.
  • Only one instance of reinjury was reported.

Researchers pointed out in their paper that their study was very small in scale. Just ten patients were treated. Nonetheless, a 100% success rate in restoring full ligament continuity is impressive. Equally impressive is the small 10% reinjury rate.

The Latest in a Growing Number of Studies

On its own, the Juntendo University study would not be enough to turn a lot of heads in the medical community. But this study does not stand alone in its findings. It is just the latest in a number of studies reaching the same verdict: PRP injections or legitimate option four ACL injuries.

The exact mechanism behind the therapy’s success is not clear. However, pain medicine doctors have their suspicions. Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, TX offers PRP injections for musculoskeletal injuries and diseases. They explain on their website that the body naturally responds to injury by flooding the site with platelets, among other things. It is believed that the injections ‘jump start’ the healing process by introducing a higher concentration of platelets.

Worthy of More Attention

Whether or not PRP injections facilitate healing by jump starting the body’s natural processes, a growing body of evidence demonstrates that the therapy does work in some patients with ACL injuries. For that reason alone, the therapy deserves more attention.

PRP injections, and all regenerative medicine for that matter, aren’t necessarily capable of all of the things attributed to them. But in the case of restoring ligament continuity following an ACL injury, the evidence in support of PRP therapy is growing. That is good news to both professional athletes and weekend warriors.

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