Spinning and winning? A first-hand account of the mysterious PRP

Reading material I’ve been fascinated with platelet rich plasma therapy – or “blood spinning” – since the feds busted the good doctor Tony Galea up in Canada this past winter, so I decided to undergo it myself and see what all the fuss is about.

Okay, that’s not how it went down at all. But I’ll admit to being intrigued bv the idea when I recently had a doctor – not Galea – suggest that I have the treatment.

I’ve had chronic shin and calf issues in my right leg (including something called tendinosis) for about a year now stemming from a running injury, and the treatments I’ve tried – physical therapy, acupuncture, active release, rest and ice – haven’t really worked. So after some more physical therapy with zero results, we decided to go for this last-ditch Hail Mary.

My doctor was surprised I had heard of blood spinning when he brought it up, but it’s been in the news; the notorious Dr. Galea had given the treatment to, among others, Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Reyes, and every Mets player named Carlos. More recently, it’s become a sort of magic bullet given to just about every athlete that suffers an injury, with Huston Street, Kenyon Martin, Hines Ward, and most recently Cliff Lee having their blood spun.

I’ve read up on it a bit because it just seems like something out of a science fiction novel. They “spin” your blood and inject it back into you? I was thinking they might have some sort of robot fly in on a hovercraft to administer the procedure.

Anyway, through this process, they draw your blood, put it in a centrifuge, and spin it at high speeds for five minutes. This separates the red blood cells from the plasma, which they inject back into the injured area, the thinking being that it amplifies the body’s natural response to injury. The plasma supposedly has 10 times the injury-healing “platelets” of regular blood. And since it’s something your body naturally produces, it’s the equivalent of a B-12 shot or taking a melatonin pill – flooding your body with something natural.

That may or may not be my hand

Does it work? Well, nobody’s really sure. It’s far from scientifically proven, and some studies say a placebo of salt water worked just as well – as in, everyone responds to some degree to perceived treatments because it gives them hope that things will get better.

Regardless, I figured it’s worth a shot. Tiger flew in Dr. Galea to give him these injections while recovering from his knee injury, and all those Mets guys were going all the way up to Canada for this. Skepticism arose, as there’s a growing number of doctors all over the United States who can administer this treatment, and the services Galea provides also include HGH trafficking. But in actuality, Galea is apparently a well-known pioneer of blood spinning, and if I had the chance to have him give me the treatment himself, I would have done that.

So I found myself in an operating room yesterday in Englewood, NJ, talking to Dr. Mendez – who’d heard of Dr. Galea, but “didn’t know him in person.” Dr. Mendez had a pretty good sense of humor; when I asked him if what I was getting was really HGH, he said he’d have to tell me behind closed doors. However, they didn’t let me take pictures of the centrifuge, so an image from the pamphlet will have to do.

Looks like a spaceshipThough I never like the thought of anything that has to take place in an operating room, the procedure itself wasn’t so bad, though I don’t like needles in the least. They took a small amount of blood from my arm, listened to my nervous jokes for about five minutes while it spun, and then used an ultrasound to identify three spots on my lower leg to inject the plasma. I had assumed I would feel it coursing back into me, but all I really felt was the needle.

After the procedure, they wheeled me to a recovery area, where they gave me some cranberry juice, monitored my vital signs, iced my leg – which had started to ache – and briefed me on what I was to do next. (Ice it periodically, elevate it, keep a log of my pain level)

Dr. Mendez came over to check on me, and after a couple more jokes about HGH, I asked him how he got into treating people with PRP.

“I had it myself,” Dr. Mendez said. “I had an injury,” – I believe he specified a back injury, but I was a little woozy – “and I had another doctor here give it to me. I wasn’t going to give something like this to other people if I hadn’t had it myself.”

Did it work?

“Absolutely, it did. I’m not back to where I was, but I’m exercising again.”

So how do I feel? Right after the procedure, my leg was pretty sore where he had injected me and I was worn out, but perhaps not more so than usual after giving blood, and I had also slept only four hours. As the night went on, the dull ache I’d had for over a year was minimized, though I think that’s probably the placebo effect. It started to bother me a little more at night.

I woke up feeling pretty good, though when I ran downstairs to catch a bus, my leg started to bark a little. It bothered me a little more on my 15-minute walk through the City to work. It’s not said to be an instant thing; I’m supposed to rest it for another week before attempting to ramp up to some sort of exercise. The plasma is apparently still doing its work. But I’m hopeful that maybe this can succeed where so many other treatments have failed.

And that’s sort of what it’s all about. An injury that prevents us from being as active as we’d like affects our state of mind along with our physical well-being, and I haven’t been totally right with the world for longer than I can remember.

I’ve had my share of doctors tell me they had magic fixes, so the jury’s out on this one.

But if I can go for a run at some point and not think about how my leg feels the whole time, which I haven’t been able to do in well over a year, I’d say this treatment is worth its weight in plasma.

We’ll see how it goes.


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