10 knee surgeries that impact history

Orthopedic Sports Medicine


Here are 10 knee injuries and surgeries that made an impact on history.


If you would like to submit an historic knee surgery, contact Laura Dyrda at ldyrda@beckershealthcare.com.


The first total condylar knee replacement. Hospital for Special Surgery's John N. Insall, MD, Chitranjan Ranawat, MD, and Allan E. Inglis, MD, along with biomechanical engineer Peter Walker, PhD, developed the modern knee replacement and implanted it in the first patient in 1974. The first total knee replacement was performed in 1968, but the implant wasn't reliable and the HSS team aimed to create a better option for patients with knee arthritis than pain medication. Their implant was designed to recreate how real knees work and became a game-changer in the field. It was the first implant to address all anatomically shaped parts in the knee. With this implant as the foundation, surgeons and developers have advanced the field immensely. Now knee replacements are standard-of-care procedures and new patient-specific technology is built on the anatomical principles the HSS surgeons studied.


Mickey Mantle's first knee surgery in 1951. We consider Mickey Mantle a baseball legend today, but in 1951 he was a New York Yankees rookie that spent part of the season in the team's farm system and was trying to prove himself in his first World Series when an injury during game two forced him to watch the rest of the series from the sideline. He was attempting to catch a ball when his cleat spike hit a rubber drain or sprinkler and caused the first knee injury of his career. Mr. Mantle subsequently underwent knee surgery — and several surgeries throughout his career — yet still managed to become one of the most well-regarded baseball players in history. However, according to a New York Times article, the injury and surgeries prevented him from become one of the greatest statistical performers in history.


First knee arthroscopy. Dr. Severin Nordentof, a physician in Denmark, is credited with using the first endoscope to look inside of a knee joint in 1912. He used the Jacobaeus Laparoscope, according to an AANA report, to examine the interior of knees and discussed his findings at the 41st Congress of the German Surgical Society in Berlin. However, without evidence of surgical intervention, he is not considered to have performed the first knee arthroscopy. Forty-three years later, renowned Japanese surgeon Masaki Watanabe, MD — known for his development of arthroscopy instrumentation — performed the first recorded operative procedure under arthroscopic control. He removed a solitary giant cell tumor from a knee joint during the procedure, and then in 1962 performed the first partial meniscectomy under endoscopic control. Dr. Watanabe was also considered a great teacher and shared his knowledge freely. He authored the Atlas of Arthroscopy, published in English in 1957, and his research became the basis of modern minimally invasive knee surgery today.


Adrian Peterson's 2011 knee surgery and amazing recovery. Adrian Peterson was in the running for the National Football League's 2012 most valuable player and noted Hall of Fame prospect for the Minnesota Vikings when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in December 2011. The injury was gruesome and would have left many athletes on the sideline for months — if not the rest of their career. However, Mr. Peterson called on renowned knee surgeon James Andrews, MD, noted for his work with elite athletes and returning them to play. Mr. Peterson not only underwent the surgery six days after injury, but also completed a rigorous rehabilitation schedule and then returned to start for the Vikings week one of the 2012 season — just nine months after surgery, according to Bleacher Report. He continued to put up outstanding numbers post-injury and threatened to break league records. Mr. Peterson's recovery has now become a benchmark for other athletes suffering ACL tears — fairly or not — as he raised the bar for future knee surgery recovery.


Dwayne Wade's 2002 knee replacement surgery. Nearly a decade before he became part of the Miami Heat's "Big Three," Dwayne Wade underwent his first knee surgery to remove the meniscus from his left knee. He was a Marquette college basketball player and decided to undergo the procedure to return to play. While Mr. Wade still became a superstar in the National Basketball League, he battled chronic knee pain and issues throughout his career, leading toward a second knee surgery in 2012. In a 2013 interview with ESPN, Mr. Wade said he regretted that first knee surgery — technology was less advanced than it is today, and he wasn't thinking about having a long-term career. He was more focused on returning to play in the short term. Mr. Wade helped lead the Miami Heat to several championship games, even winning two championship rings, but his injuries may have prevented him from achieving even more. The Heat lost the championship series in 2014 and the key member of Miami's "Big Three" — LeBron James — left the team for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mr. Wade continues to play for the Heat, but without that first knee surgery he may have made more significant contributions to the game and changed basketball history forever.


Bill Clinton's 1997 knee surgery. In the midst of his second term as president, Bill Clinton injured his knee during a fall at Golfing Pro Greg Norman's estate. The president torn a tendon and his subsequent procedure was performed by then chief of orthopedic surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital David P. Adkison, MD. The procedure put the president on crutches for eight weeks and caused then First Lady Hilary Rodham Clinton to postpone a two-week, six-nation tour of Africa, according to the Baltimore Sun. While the procedure didn't immediately hamper the President's legacy, life with an improperly healed torn tendon would have inhibited President Clinton for years. Since finishing his second term, President Clinton has made a huge impact on global affairs with the philanthropic Clinton Global Initiative — which made nearly 2,500 commitments valued at $87.9 billion, according to Forbes. He also campaigned for President Barack Obama in the 2010 and 2014 campaigns, and is considered one of the reasons why the president was elected. His philanthropic work and campaigning would have been impossible — or at least much more painful — with an injured knee.


The knee injury that inspired Dr. Ruth Jackson. Ruth Jackson, MD, is considered the first female orthopedic surgeon and she paved the way for hundreds of women interested in practicing medicine and orthopedic surgery. But she may not have pursued medicine — or at least not orthopedic surgery — without meeting a family where the father couldn't work due to a knee injury. Dr. Jackson's own father objected to her studying medicine, but after meeting the man who couldn't care for his family because of knee pain, she decided she had to "find out what [was] wrong with that man's knee and put him back to work…," according to a biographical sketch in Clinical Orthopedics. She was only one of four women first-year students at then Baylor University College of Medicine in Texas and then began studying general surgery at Worcester (Mass.) Memorial Hospital. But she had the opportunity to study under orthopedic surgeon Arthur Steindler, MD, at the University of Iowa when her general surgery plans were blocked. She went on to become the first female to receive orthopedic surgeon board certification and first female member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in 1937. Her career advanced to become the chief of orthopedics at Parkland Hospital in Dallas and she mentored several other female physicians and orthopedic surgeons, including Margaret Watkins, MD. The Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society — an organization to support for female orthopedic surgeons — was established in her name in 1983.


First ACL reconstruction using bone-patellar tendon-bone grafts. In 1963, Kenneth Jones, MD, reported the first surgery with a new technique to reconstruct an "irreparably" damaged anterior cruciate ligament — the beginning of bone-patellar tendon-bone grafts, according to a Hindawi report. Dr. Jones performed the procedure on 11 patients with good outcomes, but there was criticism that the original grafts were so short that the femoral tunnel was drilled at the anterior margin of the notch and not at the insertion of the native ACL. His technique was developed by surgeons over the next decade, including the first free bone-patellar tendon-bone graft procedure in 1969. The technique was considered the Gold Standard by the 1990s, thanks to the pioneering work from Dr. Jones.


Derrick Rose's 2012 knee surgery. Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose was defending league most valuable player and a rising star when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament during a 2012 play-off game. Brian Cole, MD, team physician for the Chicago Bulls, waited for swelling to go down before performing surgery on Mr. Rose's knee at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. As one of the leaders in knee surgery and biological repair, Dr. Cole repaired the knee with an autograft from Mr. Rose's patellar tendon and injected platelet-rich plasma to stimulate and speed healing, according to a Chicago Sun Times report. The injury robbed Mr. Rose of the 2012-213 basketball season and a second injury early in 2013 — which also resulted in surgery performed by Dr. Cole — left Mr. Rose sidelined for the 2013-2014 season as well. His absence left a giant hole in the Chicago Bulls team, which had previously been considered a serious contender for national championships, and Mr. Rose's exciting and dynamic play brought attention back to Chicago for the first time since Michael Jordan's final season. Mr. Rose is poised to play the 2014-2015 season and the success — or failure — of his knee procedures will go down as one of the most important moments in modern NBA history.


Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's knee surgery. Chitranjan S. Ranawat, MD, a knee surgeon practicing in New York, performed knee surgery on India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's left knee in 2000. While the procedure itself wasn't revolutionary, at the time was billed as the "most watched medical event in Indian history," according to India Today. The procedure put "the political health of the country at stake" and was well planned out from the beginning. The procedure was successful and Prime Minister Vajpayee was able to resume his role shortly after the procedure. But, his condition — he had arthritis of the knee — generated considerable publicity and awareness for arthritis and gave surgeons a platform to help correct some of the misinformation about joint replacement surgery in the country. In a report from The Hindu, Dr. Ranawat discussed the procedure with local media and mentioned even though surgery is expensive and a quality-of-life procedure, it should still receive government funding.



More articles on orthopedics:

Dr. Michael Nguyen performs knee surgery on FC Dallas' George John
USA Gymnastics Medical Task Force taps Dr. David Kruse for athletic care coordinator
Orthopaedic Associates adds Dr. Justin Chronister



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