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Athletes turn to plasma therapy, but the data are mixed


3 Star

Athletes turn to plasma therapy, but the data are mixed

Our Review Summary

Strong points about this story:  it emphasized that research is far from conclusive in the lede.  It established the controversies throughout. 

Weaker points:  It never evaluated the evidence in any detail, nor did it give any sense of the scope of the supposed benefits seen in the research so far.  Costs also not discussed – and they can be considerable and may not be covered by insurance.


Why This Matters

Is this another new hyped orthopedic technology/approach that is like a high-speed train leaving the station before enough evidence is in hand to support it?


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No discussion of costs – an unfortunate oversight.  Some estimates range as high as $2,000 and it’s not always covered by insurance.  That makes cost a really big issue.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story didn’t quantify any of the benefits from the studies it mentioned, so readers don’t get any sense of the scope of the potential benefits from the research that has been done.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story should have explained that the safety of the procedure has not been established, and that potential harms include minor risks of infection, misapplication, and failure.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

One good thing about the story is that it mentions numerous studies.  But none of the studies is evaluated for the quality of the evidence. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease-mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


Three experts were quoted.  We wish the story would have included an interview with an orthopedist who has chosen not to use it.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


We’re going to judge this satisfactory because the story included an important point that the procedure is being used differently around the globe – making research comparisons difficult – because it’s almost like comparing different procedures.  The frequency of applications – and the fact that calcium is sometimes added – makes comparisons difficult.  This was an important point for the story to make. Our take on it is: Are trains leaving the station down several tracks before anyone ever truly establishes benefit for any of them?

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The expanding use and availability of this approach is clear in the story.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The promotion of the procedure over several years’ time is clear in the story.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


It clearly did not rely solely on a news release.

Total Score: 6 of 10 Satisfactory


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