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In an attempt to speed up his return to the Golden State Warriors' lineup, reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry underwent platelet-rich plasma treatment on the right knee he sprained during the first round of the 2016 NBA playoffs, according to Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group:
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PRP, which is said to promote healing, was given to Curry on the second day of his recovery process, he said.
Curry could be nearing a return to basketball activities nine days after suffering a Grade 1 MCL sprain.
Warriors general manager Bob Myers declined to comment on whether or not Curry had undergone PRP therapy during a Tuesday interview on 95.7 The Game.
"Did you ask him? Did you guys ask him? I'm not answering your question," he joked. "You've got to ask him, man. I know the answer to your question, but it's not my body and it's not me."
Many of us NBA fans were introduced to PRP treatment in the summer of 2011, when Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant jetted off to Germany for "a derivation of platelet-rich plasma therapy" aimed at stimulating healing in his arthritic right knee. Here's how Dr. Matt McCarthy described the procedure at Deadspin's Regressing blog back in 2013:
The treatment involved spinning samples of Kobe's own blood to concentrate the platelets from the rest of the blood and then injecting the platelet rich portion of the blood back into his knee. Following the procedure, he returned to the states and played with significantly less pain in his arthritic right knee.
The rationale for using this therapy remains compelling: it's relatively cheap, minimally invasive, and the platelets harbor growth factors—fibroblast growth factor, connective tissue growth factor, vascular endothelial growth factor, etc.—that are thought to accelerate the natural healing process and promote blood vessel formation and cartilage repair. The entire process can take less than fifteen minutes and increases the concentration of platelets and growth factors up to 500%. Growth is a crucial part of the healing process, so this is great news for athletes.
There are, however, differences between the therapy Kobe received, known as Orthokine or Regenokine treatment, and "traditional" PRP treatments; Jeff Stotts of invaluable injury-focused site In Street Clothes explained them back in 2014.
Bryant wasn't the first NBA player to walk a PRP-like path in pursuit of non-surgical solutions to nagging issues; Brandon Roy and Acie Law tried it one year earlier, and Wesley Matthews went for it just before Kobe's trip to Germany. After Kobe popularized it, though, a number of NBA players have opted for similar treatments, including Dwyane Wade, Deron Williams, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard.
There are some medical professionals who remain skeptical of PRP's use as a get-healthy-quick treatment for athletes. From Luke Whelan of WIRED:
“There are some situations where it’s not utilized in a biologically sound way,” says [UC-San Francisco Medical Center sports medicine physician Anthony] Luke. “Everyone is always looking for the newest cutting-edge technique that might save a few days or a magic bullet that might fix this.” He cautions athletes from using therapies like PRP injections in the place of giving the body enough time to heal.
After diagnosis, treatment (which in the worst case, like an ACL tear, might mean reconstructive surgery), and rehab, the player has to work with the physician and his team to figure out when he’s ready to come back on the court. Curry will be evaluated after two weeks, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will be ready to play. In order to juke his defender before stepping back for a signature three, Curry needs to put all his weight on his right foot. Will he be able to resist doing that if he’s put in the game before his MCL is completely healed?
“The decision to push the envelope can be really complex,” says [Brian] Cole, [an orthopaedic surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and the Chicago Bulls' team physician]. The player might feel like he needs more time—but the organization, in a situation like the NBA playoffs, will want him back as soon as possible. Or maybe the player is anxious to get back before he is ready, feeling the weight of his or her team and even career. Amid all of this, a team’s physician has to be clear minded and focused on the best interest of the player. “It takes an enormous amount of humility,” says Cole. “You can never be a fan.”
Curry's teammate, center Andrew Bogut, underwent PRP therapy on his right knee in December of 2014. The Aussie had already missed five games before the team announced he'd undergo the treatment; he missed seven more over a 2 1/2-week span before returning to the lineup. He appeared (and mostly played well) in 47 of the Warriors' final 49 regular-season games, and stayed healthy throughout the playoff run that ended with Golden State's first championship in 40 years.
Curry suffered his injury during Game 4 of the Warriors' opening-round series against the Houston Rockets, on April 24. He said Tuesday that he received his PRP therapy two days into his recovery (April 25 or 26, depending on whether you count the first day). A similar timeline to Bogut's would put Steph in line for a return closer to the end of next week than the end of this one, but with four days off between Games 2 and 3, both the MVP and his employers have identified Saturday night as a potential target return date. From Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Whatever veiled workout Stephen Curry did on his sprained right knee was enough to keep the Warriors cautiously optimistic that the point guard could practice Thursday and might play as early as Saturday’s Game 3.
“He’s doing pretty well, going through the rehab process, and he’s making the improvement that we’re looking for,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “… It’s really more about what the training staff tells us about being at risk for further injury.
“If he’s not at risk, and he’s at 80, 90 percent, he’ll play.”
And from Janie McCauley of The Associated Press:
"Thursday, we will definitely get up and down and hopefully he'll be able to take part, but we don't know yet," Kerr said. "We had the same situation in Houston. We wanted to get him back. We got two days of work in and you could see that he was rusty, but he still makes an impact just being out on the floor. I don't know how it'll play out here. It's not like if we're 2-2 or something we're not going to bring him back. We can't let the series score determine whether we bring him back, it's really based on his health and his rhythm. So we'll do our best to help him get that rhythm in practice and then try to put him in the best position once he is back to make an impact, maybe without having to be Superman."
And yet, despite the PRP and Curry's ongoing work, Myers insisted during his Tuesday radio interview that has no idea just yet when his top gun's going to return to the court.
"I guess you just don't know until he starts playing," Myers said. "He's got to play a little bit of 3-on-3, or 5-on-5 — he hasn't done any of that stuff yet. I just think until you actually are trending towards playing basketball, it's hard to speculate as to what the date will be. If he's able to do that before Saturday, then you see where you're at, but I don't know.
"I think you just throw stuff out there, like we did with the two weeks [timetable], and see. It's going to be somewhere around there. I don't know that it'll be before. It might be after. But you don't really know until you start pushing the envelope as far as basketball activities, and he's not doing that stuff yet. Can that stuff be done in the next couple of days? I suppose. But you have to get through all those hurdles."
Until he does, the Warriors will just have to content themselves with watching Klay Thompson play Pop-A-Shot over hapless Blazers wings, Draymond Green crank the intensity up to 11 on both ends of the floor, and contributors like Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Festus Ezeli make their presence felt to keep the Dubs afloat in the MVP's absence:
There are worse problems to have.
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