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Knee News

Results of Cartilage Transplantation in Athletes

New ways to treat cartilage tears in the knee work well for the average person. How well do they hold up for high-level athletes? Researchers take a look at this question and report their results after studying 45 soccer players.

Autologous chondrocyte transplantation (ACT) is a newer method of full-thickness cartilage tears in the knee. Full-thickness means the cartilage is damaged all the way down to the bone. With ACT treatment normal, healthy cartilage cells are taken out and multiplied in a lab then reinjected into the defect.

Results were measured based on activity, function, and return to soccer. Data on the timing of the return and the skill level upon return was collected. Three-fourths of the players reported good to excellent results.

Only one-third of the group returned to soccer. Most of these players were at a high-level and returned to their former level of play. The average amount of time off was 18 months. Very few recreational players went back to the game.

The authors conclude ACT repair of cartilage repairs do hold up under maximum mechanical stress. ACT may work best in younger, high-level athletes. In this study gender didn't seem to matter -- men and women had the same results. Those who had fewer knee surgeries before ACT had the best results.


Kai Mithöfer, MD, et al. Articular Cartilage Repair in Soccer Players with Autologous Chrondrocyte Transplantation. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. November 2005. Vol. 33. No. 11. Pp. 1639-1646.

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