Jan 29, 2015
FGCU Offers PRP Therapy

By R.J. Anderson

For years, professional athletes have been turning to platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy as a way to expedite healing. Now, athletes at Florida Gulf Coast University are privy to the same treatment as the pros. In what is believed to be a first on college campus, FGCU is offering PRP injections to its athletes, saving them the hassle of finding a PRP practitioner, and saving the school money on the treatment.

“I don’t know of any other program that does what we did here tonight,” FGCU senior associate athletic director and former head athletic trainer Mike Estes told the News-Press after Eagles men’s basketball player Bernard Thompson received a PRP injection in his foot for plantar fasciitis last month. “Now, the big schools can do whatever they choose. They have those resources. (But) the ability to bring PRP injection here to a mid-major school is unheard of. I’ve asked my colleagues across the conference and the country.”

The idea behind PRP is to use high concentrations of platelets to promote healing. With a PRP procedure, a small amount of a patient’s blood is drawn then spun in a centrifuge, separating the red blood cells from the plasma. The platelet-rich plasma is then injected into the area around an injury site. Most PRP preparations contain a concentration of three to five times more platelets and growth factor concentrations up to 25 times that of normal blood.

As for being in compliance with NCAA regulations, as long as PRP isn’t accompanied by a local anesthetic, it’s completely legal.

Though its benefits have not yet been conclusively proven, PRP has had a lot of anecdotal success. At FGCU, Estes said the school has seen a favorable response in about 90 percent of PRP injections it has done since it began using the procedure. He estimates that 25 to 30 injections have been administered in the athletic department’s sports medicine facility.

“Anytime we can use the body to heal itself, that’s a good thing,” Estes said. “We’re not using chemicals. We’re not using drugs. We’re using the athlete’s own healing capacity to stimulate a healing response. We don’t do nearly as many steroidal-type injections as we’ve done in the past. We try to use mostly PRP.”

James Guerra, MD, FGCU’s team physician has found PRP to be effective for treating tendon injuries and reported that the modality can shave two or three weeks off recovery times for ankle sprains and hamstring injuries.

“That’s huge in sports medicine,” he told the News-Press. “I’m a believer.”

Still considered an experimental therapy, PRP is not covered by insurance companies, so by offering it in-house, FGCU achieves significant savings compared to contracting a third party to administer injections. Outfitted with $40,000 worth of equipment from Arthrex, a nearby orthopedic design and supply company and an FGCU business partner, the school’s athletic training room contains a centrifuge and an ultrasound for performing the procedure.

“A lot of folks are just happy that they have diagnostic ultrasound in their (athletic training) room that they can use for injury assessment or their doctors can use for an injection,” said Estes, who moved into athletics administration at FGCU this past summer after 14 years as the school’s head athletic trainer.

“It’s my legacy, I think,” he said of FGCU’s in-house PRP injections. “Having been here, started the program, grown it, I don’t know anything else that is going to touch athletes like this is going to.”

For more information on PRP, read the T&C feature article, Bloody Good Move.

R.J. Anderson is the Online Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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