Saturday, July 2, 2011

When It Comes to Healing Knees, Which Century Is Your Advice From?

June was a fantastic month for electronic sales of Saving My Knees. Thank you all.

Part of the reason: My essay on Huffington Post (showing that knee cartilage can heal) undoubtedly drove many readers to, in search of more details of my personal story.

As July arrived -- not content to rest on my laurels, of course :) -- I began researching upcoming blog posts. One topic I'll look at soon: "Which surgery is better, microfracture or ACI?" (I won't steal my own thunder by revealing which one I favor.)

Okay, this is where the story gets kind of funny ("a rabbi, a construction worker and a fireman walk into a bar" … no, not quite funny like that). I'm over at Wikipedia, the people's encyclopedia, checking out the "microfracture surgery" entry. And I come across this statement:
Chronic articular cartilage defects do not heal spontaneously.
And I think, "Aw, geez, didn't I just write a HuffPo essay showing this to be wrong?" But, you know, the nice thing about the people's encyclopedia is that the people are transparent. So I follow the page all the way to the bottom, to the footnote, to find the source for this assertion.
Hunter W (1743) "On the structure and diseases of articulating cartilages." Trans R Soc Lond 42B:514-21
See anything weird there? Like, umm, 1743? So I wonder: Is this really the year 1743? Like four years before citrus fruits were discovered to prevent scurvy? Like during a century when doctors supported bloodletting as a cure for various ailments? Is there really a Wikipedian trying to justify a claim by using science that's more than two and a half centuries old?

Part of me said, "Nah, it can't be. That string of digits must refer to something else." So I did a little more investigating and found Hunter W on the Internet. He's William Hunter, coin collector, physician, obstetrician. Here he is, the handsome gentleman in the old English barrister-type wig.

Born in 1718.

In his mid-twenties, he sealed his immortality on the as-yet undreamed-of Wikipedia by publishing some kind of serious work that declared that cartilage defects don't heal spontaneously.

So if you believe cartilage can't heal, based on what you read in this Wikipedia entry, you're relying on the medical judgment of a guy who was busy eyeing retirement villas by the time the first shot was fired for the Revolutionary War.

Does that make sense to anyone out there?

Now, here is my Huffington Post essay. All the studies cited were published in the last decade, using types of technology that lay well beyond the ken or imagination of Mr. W. Hunter. They indicate cartilage can heal and get stronger.

Welcome to the 21st century.

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