Word is that New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez flew to Germany earlier this month for a special treatment on his right knee and left shoulder -- on a recommendation from the Lakers' very own Kobe Bryant.
Rodriguez received what's called platelet-rich plasma injections, or PRPs. Doctors will take a small amount of a patient's blood, centrifuge it to yield a concentration of platelets and inject it back into injured tissue. The idea is to supplement the growth factors and plasma cells in a person's blood with a concentrated dose in order to speed up healing of, say, a sore knee or a scarred Achilles' tendon.
Tiger Woods has done it, Kobe has done it -- a host of other athletes have put their hopes in the therapy. But thus far, studies on whether PRP actually works aren't wowing researchers. Take a study published in January 2010 in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., which found that injecting patients' Achilles' tendons with platelet-rich plasma had about the same effect as injecting them with a saline solution.
According to a fascinating Q&A by the Scientific American with Dennis A. Cardone, a doctor of osteopathic medicine at New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases, many of the studies done thus far have not been rigorous, controlled, blinded studies -- and their findings can be explained away by the placebo effect or other factors.