One of the greatest things about medicine is that it continues to evolve and change.  Sports medicine is at the forefront and athletes are always looking for faster ways to recover and get back in the game.  If you are not familiar with platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy, click here to read my earlier post on it.

It has been used increasingly to treat muscle strains and chronic tendinitis in the heel, knee and elbow.  While some early responses have been favorable, there has not been much follow-up data or research available to assess its efficacy.  In the August edition of the American Journal of Sports Medicine reports on one-year follow-up for the use of PRP in chronic Achilles tendinopathy.


The study was a double blind randomized placebo-controlled study using 54 patients (age 18-70) who had chronic tendinopathy 2-7 cm proximal to the Achilles tendon insertion (minimum of 2 months).  They were randomized and given PRP or a saline injection in addition to an eccentric training program.  Keep in mind recent research has indicated the efficacy of eccentric training to treat chronic tendon problems.

In this intervention, patients were given the injection with ultrasonagraphic guidance.  After the injection, theyw ere told to avoid sports for 4 weeks.  In week 2, they preformed a stretching program.  Then all participants began a 12 week eccentric exercise program.  Follow-up was done at 6, 12 and 24 weeks by one researcher, while another blinded researcher did the one-year follow-up.  Clinical and ultrasonagraphic follow-up was done at each interval.


At the 1 year follow-up, there was no clinical or sonagraphic benefit of PRP. This matches the findings at 6 months as well.  One other radnomized studly looking at tennis elbow did find a statistical significance when they compared PRP to a corticosteroid injection at 1 year, instead of a placebo injection.  Another key factor or difference is one area is load bearing and the other is not.

In reviewing this study, it should be noted that not only was pain reduction not statistically greater, nor was there any added positive tendon structure changes noted using the PRP.  With that said, the looming issue with this treatment intervention is that variables like platelet count, injected volume. number of injections, preactivation and the presence of leukocytes are not always the same across studies, and they were not determined within this study either.

The takeaway here is that there appears to be no added benefit from PRP with chronic Achilles tendinits.  However, there is no known negative side effect associated with trying it either.  I think the hardest part is scaling back activity and being patient enough to overcome these injuries.  In my experience, they often require soft tissue massage, rolling, stretching, eccentric loading, relative rest, and a very specific return-to-activity plan based 100% on the tissue and pain response of the patient.

Time and future research will continue to tell us more about PRP.  I think we may find that different growth factors and treatment options may evolve that do in fact speed regeneration and healing.