New anterior cruciate ligament surgery to repair skiing knee injuries

New anterior cruciate ligament surgery to repair skiing knee injuries

Published in The Telegraph, March 30, 2016

By Daryll Ball

It all went horribly wrong last February at the annual magazine ski test in Kühtai, Austria. I was in the resort’s terrain park, went too slow on a 360 – a classic mistake I tell all my coaching students not to do – and landed cleanly on my feet on the knuckle of the biggest jump.

I felt no pain but there was a definite pop so I threw myself to the ground. When I tried to stand up my knee felt weak, and when I tried walking it gave way. Because there was no pain – and because I didn’t want to believe the worst – instead of waiting for a blood wagon I skied down to the test centre then took off my boots and started walking to keep it moving. Eventually I was persuaded to go to the medical centre where to my dismay the doctor told me my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) was torn. I made a vow then and there that I would dedicate my life to getting back on my skis as quickly as possible.

After an MRI scan at a clinic in Innsbruck, I was told that ACL reconstruction was the best option. This involves major surgery where some tendon is taken from the hamstring to replace the torn ligament, and it can take months to recover. Fortunately for me – as it turned out – my insurance company refused to pay for the operation in Austria, electing to send me back home for treatment instead.

At breakfast the next morning, a fellow guest at the hotel, Rob Hawthorn, came over to offer me his condolences. It turned out that he is a surgeon at Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow, and he suggested that I get in touch with his colleague, Professor Gordon Mackay – a renowned orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in sports injuries and has developed a revolutionary new procedure for repairing ligaments and tendons. I started researching and was soon convinced that this was the treatment I wanted.

Ten days later, I met Professor Mackay at Ross Hall where he explained his internal brace procedure to me as simply as he could. “A tiny bungee cord is attached to two 2mm biodegradable screws inserted into the bones at each end of the ligament,” he said. “This stabilises the joint – which means you’ll be able to begin light exercise within a week. At the same time your new ligament tissue can grow through the lattice structure of the cord, and naturally reattach itself to the bone.”