Whether you like him or not, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest professional basketball players in the world. As a world-class athlete, Los Angeles Lakers stalwart has experienced his fair share of injuries.
Recently, Bryant traveled to Germany for the second time in the past three years for a procedure I know all too well. Bryant is having platelet-rich plasma injection therapy on his right knee. He did the same thing in 2011, again in Germany.
It’s well-documented that Bryant has had knee problems. He’s had at least three surgeries in the past decade. He’s lost cartilage in his right knee, which can be painful.
For anyone who’s not a multi-million-dollar athlete, most orthopedic surgeons would recommend a knee joint replacement. But for Bryant, while such a procedure would relieve his pain, it would almost assuredly end his pro career.
So Bryant is having PRP injection therapy, a type of regenerative injection therapy, on his right knee. Blood will be drawn from his body and poured into a centrifuge – think of it as a super high-speed blender – to separate the platelets from the blood. The platelets are then injected into the problem area – in this case, Bryant’s right knee – in a procedure that should promote the body’s own natural healing in the damaged joint.
The procedure itself takes about an hour, and recovery time is minimal, especially compared with a more invasive procedure. It might take a few injections over a few weeks but if all goes well, Bryant will return to the West Coast with an improved knee (although his injured Achilles tendon may still keep him off the floor on opening night).
The European medical community has more readily embraced this type of injection therapy, which is still considered almost experimental in the United States. But many pain management specialists Stateside, such as myself, are turning to PRP injection therapy as a proven alternative to surgery and cortisone injections, which address the pain but do nothing to repair damaged areas of the body.
I have used this technique to treat pro athletes, weekend warriors, musicians and many others who suffer from pain or injury. I am passionate about these methods which are becoming increasingly common in sports medicine.
Knee and hip replacement surgeries are on the rise among the 45-55 patient population. We’re probably within a few short years of injection therapy becoming a more commonly accepted alternative in the United States. A few more studies, a little more data and it’s possible more people will turn to this type of therapy in lieu of surgery to heal damaged joints.
I hope Kobe Bryant doesn’t need another round of PRP injections in a couple of years. But if he does, it will say a lot to the sports medicine community if he chooses to have the procedure performed somewhere in the United States.
Get ready to play ball.