Cartilage Regeneration | Frank’s Story

[♪♪♪] Frank: Well, I’ve always been
in pretty good shape. I played soccer in college. When I was in law school,
I was active in rugby. I’ve always been active
at the gym; it’s my stress reliever. I was actually working out
and I was running on a trail, and my knee
just started to get sore. I’m used to being a little sore after working out, but this was something that
when I woke up the next day, it just didn’t go away. There wasn’t a pop
or anything like that, but it was just
a nagging injury that I knew I needed to
get looked at. I just really assumed
that they were going to tell me that I needed to rest it. I sat down. He came in. He reviewed the MRI with me. It said that I had
a meniscal tear as well as a tear of my ACL. He was very, very frank with me and said that, “You can’t do anything that you used to be able
to do anymore. You can never run again. Maybe you could swim, and it looks like
in about 5 to 7 years, you’re going to need
a knee replacement.” When somebody tells you that you can’t do
something you love any longer, you know, it is something
that is almost like a death, and you’re like,
what am I’m going to do now. And it was emotional. It was something
that was very trying for me. I went home.
I talked to my wife. We said that there has to be other options out there for us, and we just went and found them. I went to Sports Medicine
at Penn and met with Dr. Carey, and he really sat down with me and I believe, knew
what my goals were, going in. – Frank’s goals were to return to all activities without limitation,
which is reasonable for someone that’s his age, and then so we chose
a treatment plan that was consistent with that. I wouldn’t be a very popular
sports medicine physician if I just discontinued everyone’s participation
in sports. Another physician recommended
getting his knee replaced, and the concerns for that are, he would not be able to
resume jogging and running and cutting
and pivoting activities. What I recommended
was a staged procedure. The first step was to take a little Tic-Tac-sized piece
of articular cartilage and we sent it up
to the laboratory, and they drew millions
and millions of his own cells. And then,
a few months down the road, that’s when he underwent
the ACL reconstruction as well as fixing
the cartilage defect. – You know,
when somebody tells me they’re going to go into my leg, take out cartilage and grow it somewhere else,
you know, I kind of scratch my head
and wonder what’s going on here. He felt very confident
about doing the surgery, and frankly, I don’t think
he would have recommended it if he didn’t believe that
he could have really helped me because he knew
that I wanted to get back to a very high level
of performance. I came back and I said,
you know, let’s get this done. I started rehab literally
within a week after my surgery. The big part
about the ACI procedure is, it’s a long rehabilitation process. I think I was non-weightbearing
for 6 to 7 weeks. Dr. Carey
was an integral part in that. He stayed in contact
with my physical therapist on a weekly basis. – It’s just not
biologically plausible that the cells are ready to
withstand load and shear too early, and so it’s not
until after 6 months that the patients
are allowed to participate in impact activities. – After about eight weeks, I was able to get up
and ambulate. I do cross-fit four days a week, and it took me until I think
after the first of the year when I started actually feeling strong enough in my knee to go back to cross-fit. I feel great. I mean,
it’s just such a relief to be able to do the things
that I want. I have twins that are 9. They are very active. I’m constantly
chasing them around. I love the fact
that I’m able to just get back
to my regular life. My life, a life in motion,
is worth Penn Medicine.


  1. Dear Drs.
    What can you tell me about regenerate cartilage for hip surgery, mine s gone . The only option offered here in Sao Paulo , Br., was the complete deal,with femur and acetabul protesis…
    [email protected]

  2. Hello doc. I was diagnosed with moderate patellar tendonitis and chronic full-thickness chondral loss of the medial patellar facet in my left knee. I'm a basketball player and the doctor said that it could be a career ending injury since cartilage do not heal. I didn't have the chance to ask the doctor all the questions I wanted to ask because he was in a hurry to leave. Since MRI isn't always accurate, I want to have a second opinion in terms of getting another MRI to ensure that I really i have a full-thickness chondral loss before I call it a career ending for. I'm hoping that I only have moderate patella tendonitis and the full-thickness chondral is wrong. What do you recommend? Or do you have any advice for me? Thanks

  3. Hi Iam 37 yrs from India suffering from condromalacia patelar in both my knees grade 2 and grade 3.Please let me know the treatment details

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