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Cartilage Regeneration Benefits Athletes and Boomers

Ground-breaking cartilage regeneration isn't exactly the Fountain of Youth. But for aging boomers and athletes with aching and injured ankle joints, it's close enough, making them feel almost new again.

Foot and ankle surgeons are studying revolutionary advances in cartilage regeneration for foot and ankle injuries. According to Pennsylvania foot and ankle surgeon Stephen A. Brigido, DPM, FACFAS, these include bioengineered scaffolding for reconstruction surgery, microfracture techniques and stem cell cartilage regeneration.

These are welcome discoveries. Ankle injuries among baby boomers are quite common because our joints degenerate with age. As joint strength fades, our bodies are more prone to injury. For athletes, overuse and injury contribute to cartilage damage, especially. "Whereas in the past, a loss of cartilage meant a loss of functionality, today's advances promote cartilage regeneration," explains conference presenter and Orlando-based surgeon Robert J. Duggan, DPM, FACFAS. New techniques use a bone-friendly scaffolding material, such as a sponge allograft, to hold the patient's own stem cells in place until new cartilage forms, assisting the body's natural healing process for torn ligaments and joints.

"With today's scientific advances," Dr. Brigido notes, "joint reconstruction surgery with cartilage regeneration offers real hope for long-term functionality. Patients benefit because these techniques require less reconstruction and nurture the body's own ability to heal itself—with a little boost from technology and a knowledgeable surgeon." Whatever the cause of cartilage loss, research and testing to date have shown much promise in returning both athletes and boomers to their former, and sometimes greater, functionality and mobility.

Both Dr. Duggan and Dr. Brigido are Fellow members of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, lending their knowledge and research to advance their field. Dr. Duggan's extensive work with athletes makes him a leading voice for best treatments for sports-related ankle injuries: "Treating athletes requires special knowledge of each sport's demand on the body. New techniques in treating joint damage can return our athletes to activity quicker and in some cases lengthen their sports participation by years."

Such advances in cartilage regeneration get all patients back to normal faster than ever before. It's not exactly like turning back the clock or erasing our missteps, but most patients agree that it's mighty close.