Any athlete knows exercise can put stress on your joints.
30 to 50% of sports injuries are tendons. In the worst cases, those injuries lead to surgery.
Now, there's a new procedure that can regenerate tendons with a simple blood draw and injection.
Point guard Nikki Teasley spent six years in the WNBA and almost as long fighting a painful tendon injury in her knee.
“I thought I was going to have to retire, the pain was too, too bad. You get up in the morning and I couldn't walk because I was in so much pain,” says Nikki.
Nikki thought surgery was her only option, until doctors suggested something else.
It's called “platelet rich plasma injections.” The patient's blood spins in a centrifuge to separate blood platelets from plasma and red blood cells.
Then, under ultrasound guidance, doctors inject the platelets into the injured part of the tendon.
When the platelets come into contact with the injured tendon, they attract stem cells. These stem cells stimulate healing.
“And they will cause new collagen to form and actually fill in the defect that has been caused by the overuse of the tendon,” says Dr. Kenneth Mautner, sports medicine specialist at Emory Sports Medicine Center.
“After the injection, I feel like I can play 5 more years,” says Nikki.
Nikki's ready for another season, this time, focused on scoring points without pain.
The platelet injection procedure generally costs between $750 and
$1500 when it's done in the doctor's office.
That's far less than surgery, which can cost $5000 to $10,000 or more.
It is covered by some insurance carriers.
Dr. Stephen Simon of Mishawaka performs this procedure.
TOPIC: SURGERY FREE KNEE REPAIR
REPORT: MB #3093
ABOUT TENDON PAIN: Tendons are rope-like structures that connect muscle to bone and enable the bone to move. When a tendon is first injured, it may become inflamed, swollen and painful. Chronic tendon pain is different -- it happens when tissue begins to break down and is not always marked by inflammation. Whereas a tendon injury is referred to as tendinitis, chronic tendon pain is called tendinosis. Tendinosis -- or tendionopathy -- of the knee occurs when a person puts too much load on the tendon and causes multiple small injuries over time. "We put too much load on the tendon, which it just can't handle, so the tendon tries to adapt, and tries to heal itself, but over time, it loses the ability to heal itself," Kenneth Mautner, M.D., a sports medicine specialist at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., explained to Ivanhoe. As the tendon loses the ability to heal, it degenerates and loses strength.
CAUSES: Doctors say there are many causes for tendinosis of the knee, the most common being overuse of the tendon. Overuse happens when a person puts too much load on the tendon for it to handle. "Doing too much, too soon, too fast, as a lot of our weekend warrior athletes do," Dr. Mautner explained. Other types of tendinosis can result from extended use of computers, playing musical instruments or doing manual labor. According to Tendinosis.org, some occupations that carry an increased risk for chronic tendon injuries include assembly line workers, mail sorters, computer programmers, data entry processors and cashiers.
TREATMENTS: While in the past doctors recommended more traditional treatment methods like ice, anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections and physical therapy for tendinosis, those have proven unsuccessful in many cases. Newer treatment options for the condition involve heating, massage and surgery. A new, surgery-free option for the treatment of tendinosis is called Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy.
Designed to initiate the healing process in damaged tendon tissue, the procedure involves drawing a patient's blood, placing it in a centrifuge for 15 minutes and injecting the platelet-rich plasma into the diseased portion of the tendon. During the injection, the doctor is guided by an ultrasound image. After the injection, patients are put on a program of rest followed by physical therapy for six weeks. Some patients require more than one treatment to achieve a successful outcome. The treatment is also being utilized in the treatment of tennis elbow, Achilles tendon injuries and a common running injury called plantar fasciitis.
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