Achilles tendons, platelet-rich plasma and Megan Wright


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Today’s Globe has my article on new approaches to treating and preventing Achilles tendinopathy, including platelet-rich plasma therapy, a.k.a. blood spinning. Since I’m in Delhi, I had a chance to speak to the experts here with the Canadian team, and to Megan Wright (2008 Olympic 5,000-metre finalist who missed most of 2009 with Achilles tendon problems):

… In some cases, though, tendinopathy doesn’t respond to conservative treatment. In the months before and after the Olympics, Ms. Wright tried icing, acupuncture, sleeping in a “night splint” and “kinesio taping” – applying special tape along the length of the calf to relieve strain on the tendon. She even tried intramuscular stimulation, sometimes called “deep needling,” in her calves – a procedure that, as the name suggests, involves sticking needles deep into the calf muscle.

Finally, she turned to platelet-rich plasma. Since tendons have a very poor blood supply (unlike muscles), minor tears and inflammation tend to heal slowly. PRP therapy involves drawing a small amount of the patient’s own blood, spinning it in a centrifuge to concentrate the most useful components (the platelets) and reinjecting this concentrated plasma at the injury site. The platelets then release various “growth factors” that stimulate the body’s natural healing response… [READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE]

Wright races tomorrow night against a tough field, including the inevitable trio of Kenyans. I’ll be live-tweeting the race, which is scheduled to start at 11:20 a.m. Eastern time, at @sweatscience.

2 Replies to “Achilles tendons, platelet-rich plasma and Megan Wright”

  1. Thanks for the link, Johan — very interesting. I hadn’t seen de Vos’s full thesis before, though his article in JAMA from earlier this year is one of the ones I mentioned in the article linked above:

    “Still, the evidence for PRP remains sketchy, with the first two clinical trials published only this year. In one, Achilles tendinopathy patients who received PRP were indistinguishable from a control group that received saline injections after 24 weeks. The other looked at tennis-elbow patients, and saw 73 per cent of PRP patients achieve a 25-per-cent reduction in pain after a year (not exactly a “cure”) compared to 49 per cent of the control group.”

    My feeling right now is that we’ll end up concluding that (a) PRP does have a clinically detectable effect, but (b) it’ll probably be so small that it’s only useful for elite athletes who are desperate to return to action 10% sooner. But that’s just a guess — we’ll have to wait for more results!

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