Snap, Crack, Pop
As prominent athletes tout the healing powers of sports-medicine procedures, the tools used by the pros and their doctors are trickling down to weekend warriors. But what really works, and what’s nothing more than hype? A look at the front lines of sports medicine in Colorado.
IVORY TOWER: The Cutting Edge
A look at some of the recent sports- medicine research that’s been done—and is being done—by University of Colorado scientists.
THE ISSUE: Reducing the risk of tearing a reconstructed anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) graft.
BACKGROUND: Sometimes orthopedists use a patient’s own tissue to repair a torn ACL, which is known as “autograft.” Other times, doctors use tissue from another person, or even from a cadaver, which is known as “allograft.” Is one method better than the other?
RESEARCH: In a study published in the January/February 2011 issue of the journal Sports Health, researchers concluded that patients, especially younger patients, had an increased risk of tearing an ACL graft after reconstruction if the tissue came from another person or a cadaver. The conclusion: Use autograft when possible.
THE ISSUE: Is surgery the only/best way of treating rotator-cuff injuries?
BACKGROUND: Rotator cuff injuries are common among athletes, especially pitchers; the injury can also happen during falls. Surgery to repair a rotator-cuff tear results in a long and painful rehabilitation process.
RESEARCH: At the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ annual meeting last year, a group of researchers presented a study in which they concluded that most patients with rotator-cuff tears can be treated with physical therapy instead of surgery.
THE ISSUE: How can you rebuild damaged knee cartilage?
BACKGROUND: Cartilage, which acts as a sort of cushion between joints, often becomes damaged or torn in athletes. Because cartilage doesn’t have a blood supply, it doesn’t heal.
RESEARCH: The Anseth Research Group at CU, headed by Dr. Kristi Anseth, is studying the use of “hydrogels” in cartilage repair. These gels, which act as a “scaffold,” are mixed with healthy cartilage and then reinjected into the patient’s knee, speeding the growth of the healthy connective tissue. The hydrogel is biodegradable and eventually dissolves.