Defining Platelet-Rich Plasma Usage by Team Physicians in Elite Athletes

David E Kantrowitz, Ajay S Padaki, Christopher S Ahmad, T Sean Lynch
Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine 2018, 6 (4): 2325967118767077

Background: The indications for the use of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) are vaguely defined despite the frequency of its use as a treatment for athletes. While select studies have advocated for its efficacy, the majority of orthopaedic research conducted on the topic has been equivocal.

Purpose: To define the use of PRP in elite athletes by team physicians from professional sports leagues.

Study Design: Cross-sectional study.

Methods: A survey assessing treatment timing, usage patterns, indications, and complications was generated by fellowship-trained sports medicine orthopaedic surgeons. The survey was distributed to team physicians from the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, and the "Power 5" Division I conferences of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. From a compilation of publicly available email addresses and those available from professional team physician associations, 149 team physicians were sent this PRP assessment tool.

Results: Of the 149 professional and collegiate team physicians contacted, 59 started the survey and 46 completed it, resulting in a 39.6% participation rate and a 30.9% completion rate. Approximately 93% of physicians stated that they use PRP in their practices, and 72% use ultrasonography for injection guidance. On average, collegiate team physicians and National Football League physicians treated the most players per season with PRP (69.4 and 60.4 players, respectively), while National Hockey League physicians treated the fewest (18.0 players). The majority of respondents reported no complications from PRP injections (70%), with pain being the most common complication reported (26%). There was no consensus on the most important aspect of PRP formulation, with the top 2 responses being platelet concentration (48%) and white blood cell concentration (39%). When grading the importance of indications to use PRP, physicians found athlete desire on average (7.5 ± 2.2 [SD]; out of 10) to be more important than reimbursement (2.2 ± 2.2) ( P < .001). Importantly, physicians stated that they moderately (5.4 ± 2.3) believed in the evidence behind PRP. Physicians listed hamstring injuries as the most common injury treated with PRP. Hamstring injuries were treated with a mean 3.14 PRP injections, as opposed to 2.19 injections for nonhamstring injuries.

Conclusion: Professional and collegiate team physicians frequently use PRP despite a lack of consensus regarding the importance of the formulation of the product, the timing of treatment, and the conditions that would most benefit from PRP treatment.

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