Stories about: sports medicine

A bridge to a 21st century ACL repair

Tears of the knee’s anterior cruciate ligament — or ACL — are on the rise in middle school and high school athletes. The current treatment involves grafting in a piece of tendon from elsewhere in the body. It works very well, but requires six months to two years of post-op rehabilitation to regain strength in the knee and the place where the tendon was taken from (often the hamstring). Plus, up to 80 percent of patients develop arthritis within 15 years of the procedure.

Orthopedic surgeon Martha Murray, MD, wondered, “What if we could somehow stimulate the original ACL to heal back together?”

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Hacking sports medicine in Qatar

MIT Hacking Medicine Qatar

Judy Wang, MS, is a program manager in the Telehealth Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Student leaders from MIT Hacking Medicine had invited me to join a weekend health care hackathon in Doha, Qatar. We had taken our show on the international road before, to Uganda and India, but this hack (November 20–22, 2014) would be our first in the Middle East and the first focused on sports medicine. In partnership with Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), a member of the Qatar Foundation, this hack brought together students, athletes and health care professionals to solve sports medicine’s most pressing challenges.

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The sobering science of repeat concussions

The atrophied brain of chronic traumatic encephalopathy -- the result of cumulative concussions. (Courtesy Ann McKee)

At a May 18 conference on sports concussion and spinal injury, organized by Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, former hockey player Dan LaCouture and former New England Patriots player Ted Johnson told poignant stories of playing through multiple repeat concussions. I realize their cases are pretty extreme, but my overriding feeling as a parent was horror.

The effects of concussion were first medically described in 1928, in “punch drunk” boxers. Neuropathologist Ann McKee, MD, of Boston University and the Veteran’s Administration does brain autopsies for a living, and showed us the atrophied brains of ex-NFL players like John Grimsley and Dave Duerson. Both have abnormal deposits of a protein called tau. That’s the hallmark of a neurodegenerative brain disorder called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

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Athletes’ knees and OCD: Between ROCK and a hard place

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As more and more children sign up for organized sports, knee injuries such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or meniscus tears have continued to rise. But less well known is osteochondritis dissecans, or OCD – an injury that can have a devastating effect on the knee joint if not diagnosed early and managed properly. Kids’ worlds are turned completely upside down by OCD, when they go from the playing field to crutches.

OCD starts when a small area of bone just under the knee’s smooth cartilage loses some of its blood supply. The starved bone tissue starts to weaken and crumble, and, without this scaffold to support it, the cartilage can weaken as well. Sections of cartilage can even break off as free-floating bodies in the joint space – sometimes with pieces of bone attached to them – leaving behind large defects in the joint’s surfaces.

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