(Photo by Christopher Johnson via Wikimedia Commons)

*Last season while the Lakers were in the midst of a playoff push, Kobe Bryant suffered what some believe to be the most difficult injury to come back from — a torn achilles.

The Lakers sneaked into the playoffs and were promptly swept by the San Antonio Spurs, but the bigger story was Bryant’s future. Then 34, some wondered whether the five-time champion would ever see the floor again, let alone compete at a high level.

In October, ESPN.com reported that Bryant had traveled to Germany to undergo the platelet-rich plasma treatment known as Orthokine on his right knee. It’s not the first time Bryant has gone to Germany for such a procedure — he went twice in 2011. Orthokine is a specific name for a larger procedure known as blood-spinning. Along with Bryant, golfer Tiger Woods, tennis player Rafael Nadal and football player Hines Ward have all tried the procedure.

(Photo of Tiger Woods by Keith Allison via Flickr)

According to doctors, Bryant is ahead of schedule in his recovery. While he didn’t receive the Orthokine treatment on his achilles, his commitment to alternative forms of treatment certainly helped the recovery process. As sports medicine continues to evolve, athletes are doing whatever it takes to get healthy.

More on Blood-Spinning

Platelet-rich plasma, the technical term for blood-spinning, involves removing a small amount of the patient’s blood, isolating the growth factors and injecting them into the area of an injury. This substance only aids the recovery process and doesn’t have an effect on performance.

Orthokine and similar procedures naturally raise eyebrows, because they’re not approved in the U.S. FDA regulations mandate that human tissue can only be “minimally manipulated,” otherwise procedures are subject to much stricter regulations. The government may not yet allow this procedure, but major sports leagues haven’t banned it.

Yoga as Preventative Treatment

Athletes aren’t just exploring new procedures in an effort to get back on the field, they are also trying out preventative measures to stay on the field. One practice taking its place firmly in sports is yoga. In fact, U.S. soccer team coach Jurgen Klinsmann added yoga to his squad’s regiment. Why the growing popularity? It is due in part to yoga’s preventative and healing impact on the core. Laser Spine Institute notes that this type of exercise places the body in positions conducive to healing, particularly for the back.

P(hoto by www.localfitness.com.au via Wikimedia Commons)

“I think all professional soccer players are looking for that edge and that thing to extend your career,” U.S. Soccer midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. It’s hard to imagine world-class athletes committing to a rigorous yoga practice 20 years ago, but the results speak for themselves.

The Cloud of Sports Medicine

While yoga doesn’t raise questions, platelet-rich plasma treatments and any other biological alteration will automatically raise a red flag, particularly when athletes need to leave the country to get a procedure. The legacy of Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds and other doping athletes also has placed a dark cloud over any alternative medical treatment. When news broke that Bryant had first received a treatment that re-injected his own blood, some wondered whether he was committing the same offense Armstrong denied for so many years. Bryant has always been forthright about blood-spinning, however, and the whispers of foul play are gone.

P(hoto by Keith Allison via Flickr)

The Lakers’ star shooting guard will be back sooner rather than later, thanks in large part to his willingness to think outside the box during the recovery process.