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Alternative treatments for joint injuries

February 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Millions of weekend warriors will end up at the doctor's office this year. Backs, knees, shoulders, ACLs and hips are all pushed to the extreme and become exhausted.

Tim Acevedo was more comfortable on two wheels than two feet until the competitive cyclist was literally thrown off his game.

"I was coming down a hill and I hit a bump that I didn't see," said Acevedo.

"The bone breaks, but number two: the coracoclavicular ligaments tear," said Dr. Spero Karas, an associate professor of orthopedics.

Traditional suture repair failed just one week after surgery. Then Tim met Emory sports medicine specialist Dr. Spero Karas, one of the only U.S. surgeons doing clavicle repair with a European device called a "subacromial hook plate."

Studies show the hook plate stabilizes the joint during healing. Three months post-op, Tim's shoulder was stable enough to remove the plate. Now he's back on two wheels.

From avid athletes to those who work out just a few times a week, our knees take the most abuse.

"My knee got really painful while I was walking or hiking," said Gary Stearns, an avid runner.

If there's a 14,000-foot mountain anywhere in the U.S., Gary has seen the top of it. But arthritis in his right knee grounded this mountain climber. Traditionally, doctors would replace the entire joint. But outpatient partial knee-replacement surgery is shorter and less invasive.

"I basically take minimal bone from both the thigh bone, or femur, and tibia, or shinbone, and replace it with metal, cement and plastic," said Dr. Grant Garlick, Florida Orthopedic Institute.

Patients are able to walk without crutches or a cane two weeks after surgery.

Six months after surgery, Gary was able to climb without pain.

For tennis fanatics, researchers at Stanford University have developed a surgical alternative for tendinitis using your own blood. Doctors take blood from a healthy part of your body, process it to boost platelet content and inject it into the affected area in the elbow, kick-starting the healing process. The result: a 93-percent success rate, equal to surgery but without the knives.

BACKGROUND: Orthopedic surgeons are using new procedures available for athletes who severely injure themselves. These procedures result in a pain free athlete. The surgeries are aimed at helping athletes who have shoulder, knee, and elbow problems.

SUB-ACROMIAL HOOK PLATE- The Clavicle Hook Plate provides a single solution for fixation of both lateral clavicle fractures and acromioclavicular joint injuries. The plate and screw construct allows early rotational mobility of the shoulder

The plate stabilizes the joint during healing. As long as it is healing the athlete will become stronger faster.

PLATELET RICH PLASMA- For athletes who have tendonitis and arthritis in shoulders, elbows, or knees, they can inject their own blood into problem area instead of having surgery. The blood is injected into the damaged tissue. Blood is made of RBC (Red Blood Cells), WBC (White Blood Cells), Plasma, and Platelets. Platelets release healing proteins called growth factors. They mostly generate tissue and wound healing. When the platelets are increased in concentration, they can dramatically heal the problem. This makes the healing time shorter and allows athletes to become pain free.

KNEE: PARTIAL KNEE REPLACEMENT- If the knee is not completely damaged, more orthopedic surgeons are leaning towards partial knee replacement for athletes. The doctors remove damaged tissue and bone in the knee joint and replace the area with a man-made implant. They can replace just the damaged area of the knee that will result in shorter recovery times. Most patients go home the day of surgery and are able to walk without a cane or crutches three to four weeks after surgery.