Tommy John Surgery

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Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 3:57 pm

Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez are just a few of the superstar athletes who've used it to help their banged-up knees, shoulders and Achilles’ tendons.

Now, the somewhat controversial treatment is being used to repair a serious, sometimes career-ending injury in a fraction of the time it would take with surgery.

Eduardo De La Riva throws heat so fast the talented pitcher who accepted a college baseball scholarship right after his sophomore year in high school tore up his elbow. "Probably the worst pain I've ever had."

He considered Tommy John Surgery, where bone is drilled and a tendon graft helps reconstruct the elbow. It's very effective, but recovery can take a year or longer. "I'm seeing an astounding number of young baseball pitchers who have this injury."

Doctor Preston Wolin offered Eduardo a surgery-free 30 minute alternative called platelet rich plasma therapy. "The idea behind PRP is to use the body's own natural healing mechanism."

Growth factor cells in the patient's own blood are extracted and injected back into the patient's elbow to supercharge healing.

Just three and a half months after his injection, Eduardo's elbow is fixed. Now he's winding up for his first college season and hoping to strike.

Some call PRP performance-enhancing. Doctor Wolin says it does not make healthy parts perform better, it helps injured parts heal without surgery.

He says PRP is showing good results for athletes who have partial ligament tears in their elbows. He believes Tommy John Surgery is probably better for those with complete tears.

The procedure is not covered by insurance. The injection can range from a few hundred dollars to more than one thousand dollars.

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