Finding reliable treatments for injuries can be difficult in sports, especially mixed martial arts. Surgery can become an inevitability, but once touched by a surgeon’s knife, the human body is sometimes never the same. Yet there may be hope for combat-sports athletes trying to dodge surgeries, heal nagging injuries and avoid fight cancellations. That hope may come in the form of platelet-rich plasma treatment.
MMA can be brutal on an athlete’s body. From its violence inside the cage to the daily grind of a training camp, injuries eventually pile up. As a result, careers are sidetracked and fighters are often forced to drop out at the last minute, much to the dismay of promoters and fans. To avoid or mitigate injuries, fighters and their trainers try all manner of treatments: massage therapists, chiropractors, ice baths, cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, assigned diets, electrical muscle stimulation and even naps. In the last few years, PRP has joined a litany of treatments as fighters seek to repair debilitating injuries in an affordable and healthy way.
PRP entered the sports-fan lexicon in 2013, when NBA great Kobe Bryant used Regenokine treatment to improve his knee arthritis. Bryant’s decision seemed that of a desperate player realizing his sporting mortality after averaging just 13 points per game — the second-lowest mark of his career — during an injury-shortened 2013-14 season. However, when he returned the next year, the 36-year-old averaged 22 points per game and was awarded a spot on the Western Conference all-star team.
From that moment on, the sports world was put on notice regarding these new options to treat physical ailments. However, while similar, Regenokine is different from traditional PRP treatment. Why? Because substances are added to the healing mix being injected into patients. In contrast, traditional PRP does not add anything the body did not already include. As a result, PRP remains a legal treatment option for professional athletes in the United States. Some of the biggest names in professional sports have sought out this therapy. For example, NBA stars Isaiah Thomas (groin) and Stephen Curry (knee), and MLB pitchers Garrett Richards (elbow) and Stephen Strasburg (elbow) have undergone PRP treatment in recent years. The stars of MMA are no different.
Southern Florida’s NovaGenix clinic has specialized in PRP treatment for years, working with fighters and trainers from nearby powerhouse gyms like American Top Team and Hard Knocks 365. As co-founder Tim Bruce explained on a recent episode of the Fight Strength Podcast, PRP treatments consist of drawing 50 cubic centimeters of a patient’s blood and mixing it with an anti-coagulant. The mix is then put into a centrifuge where it is spun. The goal is to separate the platelets from the blood/anti-coagulant mix. Platelets secrete cytokines, or growth factors, and those cytokines help to draw in cells that are used to heal an injury. Once separated, what is left is about eight CCs of a platelet-rich yellowy substance.