Blood Usage in Athletic Injuries

French Open Champion Ana Ivanovic was forced to withdraw in Beijing Olympics due to injury

Injuries are part of an athlete’s life. Oftentimes, there are those athletes who get injured the wrong time at the wrong place. Ana Ivanovic was the World Seed #1 in women tennis (singles) in June 2008 when she was forced to withdraw in Beijing Olympics two months after, due to thumb injury.

Apart from Ivanovic, a study showed that over 1,000 athletes were injured in Beijing Olympics. Thirty-eight came from basketball, 156 came from football, 10 from tennis, 36 from swimming and the rest came from other group and individual sports such as volleyball, softball, weightlifting, archery, taekwondo and etc. In fact, there’s an estimate of 225 athletes who were injured due to training alone. During the competition, 633 athletes were declared injured, in which the most prevalent diagnoses were ankle sprains and thigh strain (Sports Injuries in 2008 Olympic Games – PDF, SagePub).

King of Clay Rafa suffered an early exit in 2012 Wimbledon

Four years after, Gold-medalist Rafael Nadal became an instant favorite in London Olympics. Fans and critics expected a return of the greatest rivalry (Federer-Nadal) on August 5. Unfortunately, before the Olympics starts, the seven-time French Open Champion painfully admitted in front of the media that he would miss the singles draw. Nadal, who suffered a second round exit in Wimbledon, was again bothered by knee tendinitis. This type of tendon inflammation was already bothering Nadal in the past, which hampers his movement in the court.

Paula Radclife is Great Britain’s pride in Athletics. She was a world champion in different divisions and she was inducted in the England Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010 ( Her best Olympic appearance was in 2000 where she finished fourth in 10,000 m. marathon. Radcliffe was heartbroken as she was declared unfit to participate in this year’s Olympics (, 2012). She was diagnosed with foot osteoarthritis when those mandated test results are released before the start of the formal competition.

Radcliffe is thirty-eight years old and foot osteoarthritis has regularly been a burden in her career. This chronic condition is described as a breakdown of the joints and it’s regularly  located either in the big toe, mid-foot or ankle. Should Radcliffe’s case is declared “advance,” surgery might be her only option for recovery.

In football, the South Korean team needs a new midfielder in the hands of Jung Woo-young after receiving a confirmation that Han Kook-young has to be sidelined due to left foot fracture. Fracture is another term for broken bone. There are 26 bones in the foot area alone and about 10% of fracture cases occurs around this area due to inevitable accidents (twisting, bending, slipping, inaccurate movement, etc.) in an open field. The team coach, Hong Myung-bo, couldn’t hide his frustration and admitted in an interview;

“… it is very unfortunate because it is a short time to prepare a new player ahead of such a big tournament. But we are well motivated and united so it’s not a big obstacle.”

There’s no Blake Griffin in London Olympics

Other injured athletes in London Olympics include Blake Griffin (Basketball, USA), Maxwell Amponsah (Boxing, Ghana) and Ivo Karlovic (Tennis, Croatia). These three athletes are injured with torn knee cartilage, broken jaw and foot injury, respectively.

When an athlete is injured the best thing after treatment or surgery would be rest and recovery. Doctors give specific time frames for them to heal before returning to their training regimen and joining competitions.

All the athletic injuries mentioned above have one thing in common. These may all be cured with the help of blood.

Surgery is always needed each time an athlete breaks a bone or tears a human tissue and there are also cases where athletes, like Paula Radcliff, where there is a breakdown in joint function. Most often, an orthopedic surgeon recommends an operation to get in the body and fix these injuries. One of the precautions and pre-requisites is to have the patient’s blood or compatible type in storage. Cutting open a person involves incisions on the skin, nerves, muscle and other tissues, haemorrhage or oligaemia is likely to happen. Which is why surgeons anticipate blood loss and would require blood be available when the operation is done.

Injury Treatment: Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)

In recent medical breakthrough, clinical studies are being done on how the two blood components aids in patient recovery. The platelet and plasma components are known to have the healing properties that help tissues recover. Because of this, minor musculoskeletal problems may be treated and healed post-op. Depending on the damage, direct injections to torn ligaments, inflamed tissue, muscle tears, damaged joints and tendon-muscle junction can help restore these. There are also cases wherein surgeons spray a coating of PRP on the repaired muscle or ligament to ensure that the area will heal.

The platelet-rich plasma (PRP), as a blood injection therapy, releases bioactive proteins that is needed for immediate tissue regeneration and healing.

An inured person receives platelet-rich plasma (PRP)

Depending on the injury, the athlete is recommended a series of three injections in six-week-period. Studies reveal that when you receive an injection, a new group of tendon cells would grow in the area. These cells are called tenocytes (chondrocytes if its a damaged cartilage) and its function is to build a new blood supply and Type 1 Collagen Fibers. The collagen fibers are responsible for the formation of base structure that contains tendon tissues.

Preparation for PRP treatment: PRP Prep

First, blood is collected from you or a donor by a phlebotomist- usually just a tube. After collection, your blood is put in a centrifuge- a machine that separates the blood components into layers as it spins. The red blood cells (the heavy components) stay at the bottom of a tube. While the plasma is the that is left at the top part of the tube. The spun blood and platelets can be injected as a serum or in jelly-like form that can be inserted into the area of injury.

The usage of PRP in orthopedic cases and surgeries are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However when athletes go through PRP injection treatments, convincing the uninformed public that it is a legal and ethical procedure usually gives way to speculation. Today, it is certainly one of the most promising treatments everyone (athletes or not) can benefit from.

The PRP treatment side effects include redness, swelling, bleeding and increased pain in the injured area. Having an allergic reaction is a rare response since it is the patient’s blood being used- though it’s still possible. The risks of these complications are, however; reportedly unusual and will not last for a long period of time.

Dr. Brian Halpern is a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and he supports the advancement of this breakthrough.

“The future looks very promising as we attempt to concentrate these biologically active growth factors at the bedside to help patients in pain. Allowing the body to heal itself is not just logical…it is very effective (Huffingtonpost, 2008)”

Blood products are important
Sports make your lives more exciting. It’s a different level of fun when you’re watching your favorite athletes on TV and cheer for them even if they neither can’t see nor hear you. I’m a die-hard tennis fan and it tears my heart in two when my favorite tennis players are injured especially if they are left with no options but to withdraw in important tournaments such as Grand Slams and Olympics.

With that said, I’m encouraging everyone to donate their blood, plasma or platelet regularly. These components are needed everywhere and by everyone. It’s not only needed by those millions of people who have blood disorders but those are needed by thousands of famous and upcoming pro athletes as well.

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Check out this directory to look for a blood or plasma bank in your area. Accredited plasma centers in the country pay you in cash after a session of plasmapheresis. The amount of payment depends on the location of the center and the frequency of your visit. You can also donate plasma and platelets in Red Cross manned or local blood drives for free. Either way, you’ll be given with freebies such as pens, movie tickets, tumbler, jackets or mugs. They also have awesome cookies after every donation! 🙂

BBC Sport
Washington Post
Miami Herald
Fox News
US Center for Sports Medicine
E Orthopod
PRP Stop Spain

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