Brent Guerra winces in pain after injuring his hamstring during the round 23 match against the West Coast Eagles. Photo: Getty Images
BRENT Guerra's disclosure that he is having ''incubated'' blood injected into his torn hamstring alarmed the public but raised few eyebrows at AFL clubs where the previously banned technique is now routinely employed to accelerate recovery.
While Hawthorn declined to expand on Guerra's candid description of his treatment before the club's first final last night, Dr John Orchard, co-author of the AFL's annual injury report, was certain there was nothing sinister in the defender's treatment. Geelong's doctor, Chris Bradshaw, concurred.
Dr Orchard said Guerra's sketchy description of his treatment, in a TV interview on the eve of the Hawks' qualifying final, wasn't ideal, but outlined the difference between platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy - which he suspected Guerra was referring to - and blood doping.
''It (PRP in a muscle) would have been illegal two years ago, but it's legal now,'' he said,
''It's not too cutting-edge. I think most clubs would be using plasma injections … the one you can't do is blood doping, which is when you take out a large amount of blood, store that and then inject it back into the blood stream to pump up red blood cell counts. If you're injecting into a tissue it doesn't have that effect, it just hopefully has the effect of stimulating healing.''
Guerra, who suffered the cruel blow of a soft-tissue tear in his club's last home-and-away match but remains hopeful of returning if Hawthorn makes the grand final, told Channel Ten on Thursday night: ''I'm doing everything possible: acupuncture, injections and physio.''
Asked what he had injected into his hamstring the 30-year-old premiership player said: ''I'm not too sure to be honest. I just lay on the table and I say, 'you do what you've got to do and I'll be quite happy to just lay there'.
''I think it's blood injections that are incubated overnight. I think that's what it is, but I'm not 100 per cent certain.''
On Thursday night, after a round of blood injections that day, Guerra said he was walking without too much trouble and held hope of resuming running next week. Six days earlier he left the MCG on crutches.
The World Anti-Doping Agency banned the practice of draining blood and reinjecting it directly into a muscle in 2009, but it was short-lived. Under the WADA code it is now legal to re-inject spun blood into all tissue. Typically blood is drained from the arm and put in a centrifuge to separate the red cells from the plasma before the platelet-rich plasma is reinjected to the damaged muscle or tendon. The process can take just 15 minutes.
In order to derive maximum benefit from having blood injected into his injured hamstring, Guerra could be having as many as six injections in one sitting, every second day, one AFL doctor told The Saturday Age .
St Kilda's Nick Riewoldt and Geelong's Paul Chapman have also reportedly used the treatment for chronic injuries.
In a bid to get Guerra right, it's understood Hawthorn has sounded out retired Geelong player Max Rooke for advice in recent days. Rooke was sent to Germany to receive injections of calf's blood from controversial doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfarth in 2007 and returned to play in a winning grand final team.
The exercise reportedly cost Geelong $20,000. Now a development coach at Geelong, Rooke managed just one senior match in 2010 before succumbing to a chronic knee complaint and announcing his retirement at age 28.