Health Team

Blood therapy helps heal muscles

Posted November 2, 2009 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated November 2, 2009 6:16 p.m. EST

— A new blood therapy is helping athletes and weekend warriors alike avoid surgery for muscle strains and tendon tears.

Richmond Bradshaw, 18, dreamed of playing college football but got sidelined by a knee injury.

"It feels like someone is stabbing me in my knee when I walk," he said. 

Doctors determined that small tears in a tendon in Bradshaw's knee were causing the pain.

Before resorting to surgery, Dr. Dennis Cardone, with the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases, tried a new therapy using Bradshaw's own blood to repair the injury.

In that new therapy, an injured person's blood is put in a machine that separates out the platelets. The platelets are "where the healing and growth factors," Cardone said.

The platelets are then injected into the knee, where they are expected to jump start the tears into mending themselves.

"It enhances the body's own healing powers," Cardone said.

The same blood platelet treatment has been used for several years to improve wound healing and in bone grafting procedures. Recently, orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists have started using it to repair tendons, ligaments and muscle.

Since it's relatively new, it's unclear how effective the procedure is. A small study found about 20 percent of the time it didn't work.

The relatively inexpensive therapy is gaining in popularity among doctors and professional athletes.

Last season, it helped Pittsburgh Steelers Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu heal from their injuries in time to play in the Super Bowl.

Bradshaw said he hopes the therapy helps get him back in the game, too.

"I just want to get back to 100 percent and get back on the field and do what I love to do," he said.