Two stars of the Pittsburgh Steelers Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu, used their own blood in an innovative injury treatment before winning the Super Bowl. There have been major league pitchers, multiple professional soccer players and perhaps hundreds of recreational athletes have also undergone the procedure, commonly called platelet-rich plasma therapy.

Experts say that if the technique’s early promise is fulfilled, it could eventually improve the treatment of stubborn injuries like tennis elbow and knee tendinitis for athletes of all types.

The method, which is strikingly straightforward and easy to perform, centers on injecting portions of a patient’s blood directly into the injured area, which catalyzes the body’s instincts to repair muscle, bone and other tissue. Most enticing, many doctors said, is that the technique appears to help regenerate ligament and tendon fibers, which could shorten rehabilitation time and possibly obviate surgery.

Research into the effects of platelet-rich plasma therapy has accelerated over the past couple years. Many researchers suspect that the procedure could become an increasingly attractive course of treatment for reasons medical and financial.

Here are some star athletes who have used PRP:

  • Tiger Woods – Golf
  • Takashi Saito – Dodgers Pitcher
  • Troy Polamalu – Steelers Defense
  • Hines Ward – Steelers Receiver

According to leading physicians it’s a better option for problems that don’t have a great solution — it’s nonsurgical and uses the body’s own cells to help it heal. Many physicians believe that platelet-rich plasma has the potential to revolutionize not just sports medicine but all of orthopedics.

Platelet-rich plasma is derived by placing a small amount of the patient’s blood in a filtration system or centrifuge that rotates at high speed, separating red blood cells from the platelets that release proteins and other particles involved in the body’s self-healing process, doctors said. A teaspoon or two of the remaining substance is then injected into the damaged area. The high concentration of platelets — from 3 to 10 times that of normal blood — often catalyzes the growth of new soft-tissue or bone cells. Because the substance is injected where blood would rarely go otherwise, it can deliver the healing instincts of platelets without triggering the clotting response for which platelets are typically known.

For a 2006 study published by The American Journal of Sports Medicine, he used the treatment on 15 of 20 patients who were considering surgery; the five others received only anesthetic. Two months later, the patients receiving PRP therapy noted a 60 percent improvement in pain measurements, compared with 16 percent for the control group.