What is the first thing that you hear of when a story breaks about a professional athlete receiving an injection? If you are like most people, I would venture to say that the first thought that would come to mind would be a banned/performance enhancing substance in order to enhance athletic performance. Some of you might think of an injection to help decrease pain, such as cortisone. Both of these situations involve athletes putting a foreign substance into their body, one illegally, one legally (with a prescription/need and a physician doing the injecting). Now, what if an athlete receives an injection of their own blood in order to come back from an injury and prolong their career? Do we look at this as a legal (moral) or illegal (immoral) act? Is this athlete shunned or are they seen as the new “norm”? This is the situation that we are on the cusp of experiencing as biologic medicine therapies, such as PRP and Regenokine therapy, are approved for use in the US by the FDA.
The basis for biologic medicine is that using the body’s own healing factors in concentrated forms, accelerated, directed healing can occur. Currently, Platelet-rich Plasma (PRP) therapy is approved by the FDA for use in patients that have chronic inflammatory conditions or acute injuries that could benefit from directed healing. In PRP therapy, blood is removed from the patient, spun in a centrifuge to concentrate the platelets, has naturally occurring healing factors added to “activate” the platelets, and then re-injected back into the patient at the site of dysfunction. The re-injection can be done with or without the guidance of diagnostics ultrasound and healing begins nearly immediately. Often times, the physician may “needle” the area to spur more inflammation (healing) to occur. This will often leave the patient sore for a few days. A limiting aspect of PRP is that most insurance companies will not cover this form of treatment, so patients are responsible for the entire charge on their own. Treatments can run from around $300 to upwards of $1000 per treatment. Many physicians will suggest 2-4 treatments for an injury, which can really begin to add up if there is no help from insurance.
A newer treatment method that has sent professional athletes from the US overseas is called Regenokine Therapy. It is similar to PRP, but the blood is heated up, which the physicians believe, help to accelerate the healing process. After heating, the blood is spun down, activating factors added, and then re-injected into the patient. Because of the “modifications” that are made to the blood, the FDA has not yet approved this treatment for use in the United States, which is why athletes such as Kobe Bryant, Fred Couples, and Alex Rodriguez have traveled to Germany to have this treatment performed. The typical treatment course for back pain is 5-6 injections over two to three weeks. According to the doctors that are on the forefront of this treatment, results can be seen and felt for approximately two to four years.
The true question that we need to ask moving forward is does biologic medicine really work? Well, that is an interesting question that we do not currently have the answer for. There have been studies that show both positive outcomes with this therapy and studies where no discernible correlations are made. No studies, thus far at least, have shown any negative outcomes for any patients that have tried these therapies, so they appear to be a relatively safe option for patients that have not responded to traditional forms of treatments.
For us, biologic makes sense in theory, but the jury is still out on the effectiveness. However, if this provides you or someone you know relief, maybe you can help convince us!