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Helping the body heal itself in Vail

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyDr. David Karli, left, injects Jack Crawford's platelet-rich plasma into his knee Thursday at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colorado
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VAIL, Colorado ” Jack Crawford, 78, plans to ski as long as physically possible, and an emerging treatment in Vail, Colorado may help him do that.

Crawford, an Aspen resident, had dealt with an injured rotator cuff for years. With multiple injuries to his shoulder muscles, Crawford could barely turn the page of a newspaper without pain, much less ski.

After three surgeries and a fourth looking likely, Crawford got a platelet-rich-plasma injection at Vail’s Steadman Hawkins Clinic. Two rounds of shots and a few months later, he said he was back to “100 percent” with no pain.



The treatment involves drawing the patient’s blood and separating out two components with healing properties ” the platelets and protein thrombin, which help the platelets do their work.

“The platelets are really the key directors of healing,” said Dr. David Karli, a specialist at the clinic who has been working to develop the procedure. “By concentrating them, we can amplify the body’s ability to repair itself.”

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Over the last three to four years, Karli has used the injections to treat a variety of tendon and muscle injuries, including bad sprains and smaller ACL tears. Karli began researching the procedure based on a treatment he learned about in Europe.

Today, a variety of studies are being done on platelet healing, and the treatment is offered by many doctors across the nation.

Professional athletes have used the injections to get off the sidelines without surgery, and weekend warriors have also used it to get back to their jobs or back on the ski hill on weekends, Karli said.



One patient was a police officer who tore her hamstring, he said. Multiple surgeries were unsuccessful, and she had to switch to a desk job. However, after several injection treatments, she is now back to work out in the field.

Surgeons at Steadman Hawkins have also started using the injections during their surgeries to speed up the healing process.

In the past, chronic ailments such as tendonitis were treated with steroid shots, which treated the pain, but didn’t repair the injuries.

“For partial tears, sprains and strains, we had very little we could offer,” Karli said. “Now we have the ability to impact the recovery process. And we’re not injecting anything foreign into the body. Everything we take and put in is from you.”

Using the body to heal itself? It sounds almost too simple, but some patients, such as Crawford, are sold on it.

After seeing the results on his rotator cuff, Crawford returned to Steadman Hawkins hoping the injections could help his knees, worn from over 50 years of skiing.

He would have sharp pains while skiing, and if he had skied more difficult or longer runs that day, it would hurt to walk afterward.

“I was told by one doctor I had the worst pair of knees they’d ever seen in anybody still skiing, and they were recommending an artificial knee joint,” Crawford said.

Crawford has had one round of injections on his knee and recently had a second treatment. Although the experts say that the injections are less successful on cartilage and bone-related pain such as Crawford’s, he said he is already seeing results.

“I skied the other day in Aspen with no pain,” he said. “I was ecstatic. Skiing is my main sport.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.


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