News Release: Emory Healthcare , School of Medicine

Jul. 22,  2009

Patient's Own Platelets Provide Promising Treatment for Tendinopathy

Athletes who endure chronic pain from tendon injuries may finally get relief. Sports medicine physicians at the Emory Sports Medicine Center have found that a procedure injecting platelets from the athletes' own blood to rebuild a damaged tendon has been successful in not only relieving the pain, but also in jumpstarting the healing process.  

The procedure is called Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy. Tendons are the rope-like structures that connect muscle to bone, enabling the bone to move.  When a tendon is first injured, it can become inflamed, swollen and painful. However most chronic tendon pain lacks significant inflammation as the tissue itself begins to break down. This is why traditional treatments like rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications do not often provide long lasting relief.  

"Once a tissue like a tendon has been injured and athletes continue to overuse the tendon, the healing process fails us and we are left with an unhealthy tendon that will not heal on its own, says Ken Mautner, MD, Emory Sports Medicine specialist.

"Some blame a lack of adequate blood supply to certain tendons; some blame too much stress to the area," he says. "Whatever the reason, the tendon needs help to initiate the healing process. For years the last resort for these problems was a surgeon trying to ‘release' or cut away the damaged tendon with very mixed success. Platelet injections allow damaged tissue to regenerate and heal."

The procedure is done in an exam room and takes less than an hour. The patient's blood is drawn and placed in a centrifuge for 15 minutes to separate out the platelets. The layer of platelet-rich plasma is then removed and injected into the diseased portion of the tendon with the guidance of an ultrasound machine.  

Patients are put on a program of relative rest followed by physical therapy for the first six weeks. After about six to 12 weeks, patients are re-evaluated for improvement. Some patients with more difficult injuries may take more than one treatment to achieve successful outcomes.

Mautner says he is excited about this treatment option. "A majority of patients find that by three months they can return to most or all of the activities they were doing before the pain started - sometimes activities they have not been able to do in years.

"It's a safe, non-surgical procedure that can have real benefits if used in the right patient population," says Mautner. "I have seen excellent results in the athletes I have treated so far, and they are very grateful finally to be pain-free."


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

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