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Sports

Skip the Scalpel – Your Sports Injury May Just Need a Cartilage Transplant

A common reason for pain or discomfort in shoulders and knees is a loss of cartilage in those joints. Advances in Sports Medicine have made it possible to restore cartilage without joint replacement surgery.

What is Cartilage?

Cartilage is important to the structure and function of the human body. This firm, yet flexible connective tissue allows for our joints to move. Articular cartilage is the smooth, white tissue that covers the ends of bones where they come together to form joints. This cartilage allows the bones in the joint to glide over one another with little friction. Athletes can put significant wear and tear on articular cartilage, especially in the shoulders and knees, which causes painful friction in the joints.

Cartilage Transplant

In order to reduce this friction, orthopedic surgeons can perform a cartilage transplant. This minimally-invasive technique involves growing new cartilage and placing it in the damaged area or the surgeon can stimulate the joint bones to increase cartilage growth.

“There are banks growing cells that we can harvest and bring to the operating room,” said Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Gregory Geiger. “We create a nice bed for these cells to sit in, and they will grow new cartilage just like you were born with.”

Recovery/Rehab

Most joint preservation options are surgical procedures, but the incisions are very small, so recovery is relatively quick. Rehabilitation starts almost immediately after the surgery.

“It's important to have motion immediately after surgery,” Dr. Geiger said. “This stimulates these cells to grow. The total time need to get back to competition or normal activity is somewhere between four and eight months.

Is Cartilage Transplant Right for Me?

Cartilage transplants are best suited for individuals who have had a cartilage injury and there’s a large deficit in the center of the joint. This is usually diagnosed through an MRI.

The god news is that joint preservation is decreasing the need for joint replacement surgery across the U.S.

“This procedure is helping many people,” Dr. Geiger said. “People are able to quickly go back to doing everything they did before, and not have to worry about the joint pain.”

To see more of what Griffin Health can offer you, visit griffinhealth.org/sports-medicine.