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Confronting Cartilage Damage: Recovering from a Shattered Knee

As a teacher of the freshman and sophomore Global Studies Course at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, Michael Philp logs several miles a day as he navigates the narrow aisles of the classroom, lecturing on the lessons of ancient worlds and engaging his students in a lively discourse.

Today, he makes it look easy, but in the 1990s, a water-skiing accident shattered his knee, leaving him to manage the rigors of teaching on crutches and bringing an abrupt end to his days as a marathon runner.

Mr. Philp came to see Thomas L. Wickiewicz, MD, now former Chief of the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at HSS, for repair of his severely damaged cartilage and a fractured tibia.

“Cartilage defects, particularly in young, active patients, are common, potentially disabling, and a major challenge in orthopedic surgery, especially as we seek to delay the progression to severe arthritis,” says Dr. Wickiewicz. “The limited capacity of articular cartilage to heal has led to investigations of several surgical techniques designed to promote cartilage regeneration or repair.”

Mr. Philp required multiple surgeries at Special Surgery, involving both a cartilage transplant and bone graft to reconstruct his knee and the surrounding bone and soft tissue structures. These successful surgeries enabled Mr. Philp to regain the use of his leg, and five years after his accident, he walked on stage at graduation free of crutches for the first time.