EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty was so frustrated that his torn hamstring wasn't improving after more than two weeks that he turned to a relatively new medical approach -- platelet rich plasma therapy.
The treatment has gained notice in the past year after Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward used it on his sprained right knee to help him play in the Steelers' Super Bowl win over Arizona in February.
During the 30-minute procedure, a tube of a patient's blood is taken and put it in a centrifuge and spun, producing concentrated platelets, which contain growth factors that accelerate tissue repair and regeneration.
The platelets are then injected into the injury site.
"Normally what happens in the body when you tear a muscle, there is some bleeding at that site and the muscle knows it is injured and sends signals to the body to bring in added blood supply and nutrients to that area to heal," said Dr. Victor Khabie in a telephone interview.
"With this, we give a more concentrated dose of these cell mediators in that spot and hopefully, it accelerates healing and brings more of the healing cells to that area," said Khabie, who is co-chief of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y.
Canty had the treatment on Monday and was jogging on the sidelines on Wednesday as the Giants returned to their headquarters to resume training camp after more than three weeks at the University at Albany.
"It [the hamstring] wasn't as painful, it wasn't as tight, and particularly when you're moving around because that's when you can really tell," said Canty, who signed a six-year, $42 million contract as a free agent in the offseason. "You can maybe feel all right walking, but you don't play football walking. You have to sprint and you have to be able to do athletic movements, that's the real test."
Canty, who has not practiced since Aug. 8, discussed the treatment with the Giants medical staff last week and they decided to take the aggressive option.
"I just wanted to exhaust all options," Canty said. "I understand that the body needs time to heal and I wanted to do as much on my end and they wanted to do as much on their end to get me back on the football field."
Canty said the worst part was having the blood drawn.
"I was a little squeamish when I saw the tube of blood they took out of me. That thing was huge," Canty said.
Khabie said the treatment costs about $1,000, and that most insurance policies do not cover it for the average weekend warrior.
The big concern for Canty and the Giants will be how the 26-year-old feels on Thursday. He is not used to missing football games. He didn't miss a game in four seasons with the Cowboys, and now he already has missed two preseason contests with New York.
He also is learning a new defense (4-3) for the first time in a decade.
Canty remains hopeful that he will be ready for the season opener against Washington on Sept. 13 and for Week 2, when the Giants travel to Dallas to face his old team.
Khabie said that the success Ward had with platelet rich plasma therapy has helped the treatment catch on.
"I believe Hines Ward injured his medial collateral ligament in his knee several weeks before the Super Bowl and wasn't healing," Khabie said. "He had this injection done I believe a few weeks before the Super Bowl and reports and in interviews with him, he said it was the reason he was able to play in the Super Bowl."
Khabie said the treatment is not blood doping and that the NFL considers it medical treatment to be used by team physicians at their discretion.
"This sort of takes things a step up, where you are giving a shot of your own cells that are concentrated into a healing mode and are injected to stimulate the body to heal," he said. "That's why this is becoming attractive to sports doctors and athletes, and not just pro athletes. We are starting to see weekend warriors, tennis players, golfers, various athletes come in and ask about it."
Khabie, however, warned the treatment is still experimental.
"The early results and case reports, it appears it is promising," he said. "But before we make an extended statement on how well it works, on who is works and on what injuries it works, is going to take several years of studying."