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SIM­I­LAR TO SPACKLE FILLING IN THE CRACKS, A NEW PRO­CE­DURE TAPS INTO YOUR BODY’S RE­SERVES TO RE­PAIR JOINT IN­JURIES WITH YOUR OWN CELLS. SO FAR SO GOOD.

SKI - - CONTENTS - By Krista Crab­tree

You can’t get su­per­hero knees—yet. But ad­vances in stem cell re­pair could get you back on the moun­tain su­per­hero fast.

For near two decades, Tim Pet­rick skied with con­stant pain in his right knee. As the for­mer Pres­i­dent and CEO of K2 Sports and the cur­rent COO at Sil­ver­ton Moun­tain in Colorado, he’s had the for­tune to ski some of the world’s most majestic moun­tains, and has prob­a­bly made sev­eral mil­lion, mostly sat­is­fy­ing, turns.

But in 2000, one of a skier’s worst fears struck while Pet­rick was heli ski­ing in Alaska. “I tum­bled down a couloir fol­low­ing (the late) Doug Coombs in deep pow­der and blew my ACL out,” says Pet­rick. “I also lost parts of my me­dial and lat­eral menis­cus from go­ing end over end.” Af­ter surgery to re­pair his ACL, his knee de­te­ri­o­rated over the next decade and he was pre­scribed an un­loader knee brace, which mit­i­gated the pain just enough so he could ski. “I wore that brace re­li­giously be­cause if I didn’t wear it, my knee would ache like crazy,” he says.

Pet­rick knew he was a clas­sic can­di­date for to­tal knee re­place­ment surgery, but that seemed like a daunt­ing de­ci­sion to him. Af­ter years of be­ing a hard-charg­ing ath­lete, it also felt a bit like a de­feat, a sur­ren­der of sorts on the bat­tle­field of your body.

His doc­tor, Mark D. Wag­ner, MD, of Or­tho­pe­dic Spe­cial­ists of Seattle, rec­om­mended an al­ter­na­tive to the in­va­sive joint re­place­ment surgery. Wag­ner, an avid skier him­self, had re­cently be­gun per­form­ing a pro­ce­dure called Stem Cell Ther­apy. The pro­ce­dure uses the pa­tient’s own stem cells mixed with a sam­ple of bone mar­row and adi­pose tis­sue, which is spun in a cen­trifuge and in­jected into the dam­aged joint in what Wag­ner likens to spackle filling in the cracks. “You can also think of the stem cells as seeds you put on the bare spots on your lawn,” says Wag­ner. “Your platelets are the fer­til­izer, pro­mot­ing growth. The stem cells sense the en­vi­ron­ment, go into the joint, and lay down new car­ti­lage.”

The pay­back many skiers face af­ter years of carv­ing turns down icy slopes or the repet­i­tive pound­ing from moguls is the break­ing down of car­ti­lage in their joints, par­tic­u­larly the knees. Car­ti­lage is the tis­sue found on all joint sur­faces, but be­cause it’s not supplied with blood ves­sels, it doesn’t

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