Professional athletes and knee injury
human knee is a very crucial part of the body. It withstands the
most load out of any joint. While knee holds the weight of the body
at rest, the pressures in motion are much greater. In fact, the
body can support as much as five times the body weight when a person
is in motion. For everyday instances, this can be quite a lot of
stress put into two joints. Compound this over the years, and the
knee turns out to be a remarkable feat of evolutionary ingenuity.
Despite countless years of biological craftiness, the knee does
eventually breakdown. For most people, this occurs over the age
of 65. The cartilage and the chondrocytes that once smoothed over
rough surfaces between the tibia and femur deteriorate over time
and leave the person hobbling and practically immobile. And this
is for people who live relatively quiet lives. The worst debilitation
occurs in athletes.
For most athletes, speed and quickness are essential to a winning
season. An athlete must be agile and quickly change position running
from one direction to the next. Some athletes go head to head and
exert tremendous amounts of energy trying to push back, pull, or
take down the opposing player. Marathon and cross country runners
endure the repetitive stress of running incredible distances. Athletes
place very high demands on their knees and dramatically increase
the risk of injury at not only the present but well after the athlete
stops competing. One perfect example is "Broadway" Joe
place in history was assured with his first pro football act, the
signing of a reported $400,000 contract early in 1965 that gave
the American Football League its biggest victory in the costly inter-league
war of the 1960s. The National Football League's St. Louis Cardinals
had also drafted Namath. "Broadway Joe," as he quickly
became known, won a starting job in his third game on his way to
AFL Rookie of the Year acclaim in 1965.
In 1967, he became the first quarterback to pass for more than 4,000
yard in one
season. In 1968, he capped off AFL Player of the Year and unanimous
All-Pro selection with MVP honors in Super Bowl III. Namath's pre-game
"guarantee" of victory backed up by his 206-yard passing
production was a major factor in assuring the competitive viability
of the AFL-NFL Super Bowl series.
Namath was plagued with knee injuries through much of his career.
Despite having suffered a serious knee injury in his senior year
at the University of Alabama, he still he completed 1,886 passes
for 27,663 yards and 173 touchdowns in 12 seasons with the Jets
and a final try with the Los Angeles Rams in 1977. This knee injury,
which caused his knees to swell up with fluid and require periodic
draining, plagued Namath for the rest of his career. On some occasions,
Namath had to have his knee drained at halftime so that he could
finish a game. He still enjoyed many exceptional days, one of which
came in the 1968 AFL title game. He threw three touchdown passes
to lead New York to a 27-23 win over the Oakland Raiders that set
up the dramatic Super Bowl III confrontation.
Joe Namath's constant knee problems worsened as he grew older. Years
of constant injury and stunted recovery time had damaged the cartilage
in his knee. Despite not having played in a game for over twenty
years, he opted for total knee replacement of both knees in April
of 1992. It has turned Joe around from a severely debilitating state
to seemingly complete rehabilitation. Everyone wonders what Joe
Namath could have done had these treatments been available earlier,
but to Joe, things have turned out well enough already.
Perhaps no other sport places such a high strain on the knees as
basketball. The hard impact of the court does little to soften each
blow to the knees. Knee injuries during the season can be a costly
blow to the team and can take out a player for an entire season.
Take for instance Allen Iverson. The Associated Press details Iverson's
Iverson is out for the rest of the regular season.
The Philadelphia 76ers announced Tuesday their all-star guard will
miss the final eight games because of persistent pain in his right
knee, the same injury that kept him out of 13 of the last 19 games.
An MRI showed a small lesion under Iverson's knee cap, but there
was no meniscal or ligament damage.
"It was better now to sit him down so it doesn't linger a lot
longer," said team president Billy King. "It's probably
best to get it where his knee is 100 per cent.
"It's not a situation where Allen doesn't want to play. His
knee just keeps swelling up."
The injury comes with the Sixers in danger of being eliminated from
the playoff race. Philadelphia is 10th in the Eastern Conference,
but beat Golden State 95-71 on Tuesday night.
King said Iverson's health would be re-evaluated if the Sixers make
"Worst case scenario, surgery would be an option if it does
not calm down," King said. "Rest and rehabilitation hopefully
will do it."
The injury was diagnosed Monday by New York Giants team doctor Russell
Warren, who Iverson consulted for a second opinion.
King said the swelling affected Iverson's movement and quickness.(1)
athlete, a knee injury can still be a devasting injury. Despite
advancements in arthroscopic surgery and knee replacement, an athlete
is still left in the dust. For athletes are not seeking daily routine,
but rather the peak of physical performance. And for that, medical
science has not yet come up with a perfect therapy. This will sometimes
place a critical decision on an athlete's shoulders.
To play or not to play. The answer may seem simple for any athlete,
yet the consequences are much more severe and long lasting. Often
time's competitive athletes are pressured into playing over injuries.
The reason can be pride, toughness, money, or anything that the
athlete refuses to sit out for. While this is never a good thing
to do, it has particular long term consequences on such a load bearing
joint as the knee. A recent case today involves MLB all-star Mo
Vaughn. ESPN news covers Vaughn's dilemma:
Vaughn's career could be over -- especially if he undergoes major
35, has an arthritic left knee. He has no cartilage in part of the
knee, causing bone to rub against bone and pain that is too intense
to play through. He was put on the disabled list on May 2, and has
not played since. In 79 at-bats this season, Vaughn is hitting just
.190 with three homers.
of the doctors Vaughn consulted recently recommend knee replacement
surgery, which would certainly end Vaughn's career, ESPN's Peter
Gammons reports. Vaughn is waiting for another month and will attempt
to get his knee flushed (arthroscopic surgery) in the hopes that
knee replacement surgery could be avoided.
35, not 40, and if I have the knee replacement surgery, it's going
to be practically impossible to come back," Vaughn told Gammons
on Thursday. "I still want to play, so I'm going to wait a
few weeks, see if I can have it flushed out and then determine if
there's any chance I can come back. I have played through pain before,
so pain isn't the issue. Of course, playing through pain is one
of the reasons I'm in his predicament."
and agent Jeff Moorad met with the Mets on Wednesday.
understanding is that he will need surgery just to walk normally,
never mind play baseball," a Mets official told Gannett News
Service on Wednesday.
released this statement after the meeting: "We had a very productive
meeting with Mo and his representatives. We discussed all of the
information that has been gathered and now Mo will take it into
consideration and make a decision in the near future on how to proceed."
is owed approximately $28 million on his contract. An insurance
policy would pay 75 percent of Vaughn's contract once he spends
90 days on the disabled list, and that deadline would pass on July
31, according to Gannett.
will earn $15 million next season and has a $2 million buyout for
the last four seasons, Vaughn has missed more than 200 games with
injuries to his left ankle, left arm, right hand and now the left
knee. In parts of two seasons with the Mets, Vaughn has hit only
.249 with 29 homers in 166 games. He also has committed 19 errors
at first base.
with the Red Sox, Vaughn, the 1995 American League MVP, was selected
to three All-Star teams.(2)
decision is always a tough one and is never easy to solve. Mo Vaughn
eventually retired in early January of this year. He stated that
he had exhausted all medical therapies available and that his only
choice was for total knee replacement surgery on his left knee.
Although Vaughn will walk comfortably with his new knees, they simply
don't perform on an athlete's level. The mechanical device simply
does not have the long-lasting durability and repair capability
of cartilage. Current therapies cover everyday people well, but
athletes are still left with inadequate treatments.
Organ replacement and therapy have come a long way in providing
people with suitable knee joints that return people to normal livelihood.
Unfortunately, medical technology stops just short for most competitive
athletes looking to return in full health. Of course one can argue
for the development of better mechanical devices that are sturdier,
stronger, and longer lasting. The best solution or maybe the most
viable solution right now is to replace the cartilage itself. Regenerate
the chondrocytes through stem cells, grow cartilage replacements
using tissue engineering, or simply transplant the cartilage through
xenotransplantation. The original cartilage worked well when it
was healthy, so maybe the best course of action is to return to
that state. Current organ replacement therapies are honing in on
these techniques and the results may not be too far off. Athletes
will always be at high risk for injury, but hopefully technology
will catch up and we will never again wonder if Joe Namath could
have won four more Super Bowls.