HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Dwight Howard is the latest athlete to give PRP –platelet-rich plamsa — therapy a whirl.
The Los Angeles Lakers will play at Minnesota Friday night, but Howard left the team to return to Los Angeles. He will see Dr. Steven Yoon and undergo the PRP procedure on Saturday, the team announced, in hopes of speeding up the recovery of his injured right shoulder.
Howard will then fly to Detroit and rejoin the team, although his status for Sunday’s game against the Pistons is unclear.
PRP has been around for more than a decade, but mostly relegated to athletes or patients with exceedingly deep pockets. Athletes in all sports have undergone the procedure, from golf’s Tiger Woods, tennis’ Rafael Nadal, baseball’s Alex Rodriguez and football’s Troy Palamalu, among many others.
In 2011, Kobe Bryant flew to Germany to undergo what was called a derivative of the PRP procedure on his right knee. Last offseason it was reported that injured 76ers center Andrew Bynum would also undergo PRP in Germany. Brandon Roy, forced into retirement by chronic knee issues, had the procedure, and it helped him decide to attempt a comeback with the Minnesota Timberwolves, although he has been beset by multiple setbacks.
In Howard’s case, he is seeking to avoid surgery during the season to repair his sore right shoulder, the same injury that kept him out of three games in January. Howard had been playing through the pain until he re-aggravated the injury during the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s ugly loss at Phoenix.
So what is PRP?
The procedure utilizes platelets from the athletes’ own blood to rebuild a damaged tendon. It has been successful in relieving pain and jumpstarting the healing process. 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 injected into the affected portion of the tendon with the guidance of an ultrasound machine.
There is a short recovery period so Howard might not be able to play in Sunday’s game. Obviously the hope is that it will alleviate Howard’s pain and help his shoulder heal enough so that he can continue to play throughout the season as the Lakers fight for playoff positioning.
L.A. had its modest three-game winning streak snapped at Phoenix on Wednesday night. At 20-26, the Lakers enter tonight’s game at Minnesota four games behind Houston for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Although Howard has had an up-and-down season, he still remains the Lakers’ best hope to make a playoff push. He’s a defensive anchor on a team that struggled all season at that end. He’s second on the team in scoring behind Bryant at 16.5 ppg and he leads the team in rebounding at 11.9 rpg.
The Lakers lost all three games that Howard missed in January, losing to Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
While PRP is not a miracle cure by any stretch, it might be Howard’s best — and last chance — to salvage the season.