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Like any good thing in life, you can use it or abuse it.
Somewhere, somehow, you have to draw the line.
Take for example blood doping.
(1) You draw the athlete’s blood, centrifuge it (i.e. rotate it) at high speed, separating the red blood cells (RBC) from the plasma.
(2) Your body will produce its own red blood cells to compensate from your blood loss.
(3) You store the packed red blood cells in a refrigerator or freezer (RBC have a 120 day lifecycle).
(4) Then just before competition, you re-inject the red blood cells back into your body.
Now, you can take that one step further and use your relative’s blood of the same blood type so you don’t have a reaction or anaphylactic shock.
It’s also called cheating.
Now, the reverse situation is happening. But is it cheating?
In this case, you still draw your own blood and centrifuge it for the other half of the test tube. The platelets that release proteins and other particles are used in the body’s self-healing process.
Unlike blood doping, where it is injected into the bloodstream, the platelet-rich plasma is injected directly to the surrounding injury area and not into the bloodstream. This is where the healing begins, as the surrounding tissues become repaired, notably soft tissue such as tendons, ligaments and cartilage.
Like any form of therapy, Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy doesn’t end after the injections (but it would be nice, right?). Vigorous rehabilitation along with hyperbaric oxygen therapy (which was made famous by Donovan Bailey during his rehab of his Achilles tendon tear) are also prescribed to make the procedure successful.
I can see this procedure being used for a mild injury or strain where the recovery time can be shortened from weeks to days. But a severe injury or tear would probably require surgery.
Professional athletes are using this technique, including Pittsburgh Steelers’ Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu as well as baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Takashi Saito.
Today, the procedure costs about $2,000, which can eventually go down to $500 in a couple of years and become affordable to the everyday athlete. PRP Therapy is ideal for tendon and ligament injuries, such as tennis or golf elbow and knee tendinitis.
Of course, when using your own blood, there is little chance for rejection or allergic reaction. There is no surgery, and the only scar is a needle injection which requires a band-aid.
You can bet that desperate people will go to great lengths to get more than your own blood.
And that’s where we have to draw the line.