Is PRP for Sports Injuries Considered Blood Doping?

Are you a professional athlete considering PRP therapy for sports injuries? Given the latest concerns about blood doping, you might be wary about using any kind of treatments that the authorities have banned. Let’s begin by reassuring you that blood doping is very different from blood spinning as PRP therapy is also called. Further, many sports organizations such as the International Olympic Committee, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and others prohibit blood doping. But, they most definitely permit using PRP. Here’s everything you need to know about both procedures.

Why Athletes Use Blood Doping

While PRP therapy for sports injuries is a legal, natural method of healing, blood doping is an illegal process. Athletes use the method to artificially enhance their performance in various sporting events. The treatment works on the principle that when muscles receive high levels of oxygen, they can work more efficiently. Blood doping helps achieve these high levels by raising the number of red blood cells and hemoglobin in the body. As a result, athletes have better stamina levels and perform with less fatigue.

Yes, it is possible to get these results by training at high altitudes where the air pressure and oxygen levels are low. However, athletes attempt to get the same effects by using illegal methods. 

How Blood Doping is Conducted

The processes that doctors use in blood doping are very similar to the one they use in PRP therapy for sports injuries. Here’s how they proceed.

  • Doctors draw around four units of blood from your body before the athletic event. Next, they place it in a centrifugal device. By spinning the sample at high speeds, they can separate the plasma and red blood cells.
  • They store the concentrated red blood cells in the refrigerator or freeze them for later use. And, this is possible because these cells have a 4-month life cycle.
  • Your body makes up for the deficiency and replaces the shortfall within a few days.
  • Around three weeks before the scheduled event, doctors inject the harvested red blood cells back into your body.

Why it works? The higher number of red blood cells make more oxygen available to the muscles and enhance performance. In place of using your own blood, your medical practitioners might choose to use the blood taken from a family member whose blood type matches yours. You’ll get the same results. And, also avoid the possibility of an anaphylactic shock. Instead of red blood cells, athletes may also choose synthetic agents to raise oxygen levels in the body.

PRP Therapy for Sports Injuries
Source – Oxford Presents

Differences Between Blood Doping and PRP Therapy for Sports Injuries

Both blood doping and blood spinning or PRP therapy for sports injuries use harvested blood for treatment. But, the similarities end here. Here’s how they are completely different:

  • With blood doping, doctors extract and save the red blood cells. But, in the PRP preparation procedure, doctors remove the red blood cells and only use the Platelet Rich Plasma.
  • They inject the extracted cells back into the body a few weeks later. However, the PRP serum is injected back right away.
  • Doctors inject the red blood cells into the bloodstream whereas, the PRP serum is introduced into the injury site. In fact, medical practitioners are careful to avoid puncturing any blood vessels like arteries and veins.
  • Blood doping aims at enhancing oxygen levels in the blood. PRP therapy for sports injuries works to repair both soft and hard tissues in the body including cartilage, tendons, muscles, and ligaments.
  • PRP treatments have no side effects since they use your tissues to assist in the healing process. Blood doping, on the other hand, can cause a thickening of the blood. This factor can lead to other complications such as high blood pressure, clots, stroke, and heart attack in addition to allergic reactions.
  • PRP treatments are absolutely safe to use and there are no reports of any adverse effects. The same is not true about blood doping. In fact, there are reports of at least 20 European athletes having lost their lives because of blood doping.
  • Blood doping artificially enhances red blood cells for improved performance. PRP therapy for sports injuries works to enhance the natural healing processes of the body.
  • Blood doping affects the entire body whereas PRP works on the treatment site only.
  • Typically, only high-performance athletes opt for blood doping although it is illegal. But, PRP treatments can be taken by any person. And, for issues other than sports injuries. Like for instance, reversing signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles, promoting the growth of new hair and stopping hair loss, and in dental surgery, to name a few.

You can Use PRP Therapy for Sports Injuries – It is Safe and Permitted

Considering that PRP treatments can help heal injuries, you can safely get them to treat musculoskeletal issues like strains, sprains, and training fatigue. Many professional athletes such as Pittsburgh Steelers’ Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu, Tiger Woods, Rafael Nadal, baseball Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Takashi Saito, and many others have taken the therapy for various problems. Possibly, the best positive about PRP therapy for sports injuries is that it is accessible to everyday folk also. If you enjoy the outdoors and love to spend time indulging in various sports, PRP may well be just what you need to keep up with your favorite activities.


Blood Doping 

Is Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy Blood Doping? 

The systemic effects of platelet-rich plasma injection

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