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Phone (970) 569-3240
Toll-Free (888) 446-5202

Minimally Invasive Knee Surgery
in Vail, CO

Vail, CO, is one of the most popular winter sports destinations, with beginners and professional athletes alike flocking to this Colorado vacation spot to ski and snowboard in the Rocky Mountains. Athletes engaging in winter sports like skiing and snowboarding may land awkwardly or suffer twisting injuries to their knee, resulting in painful and debilitating ligament injuries.

Minimally Invasive Knee Surgery

Skiers and snowboarders frequently incur damage to the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). If an MCL tear is diagnosed within the first few days from injury, it can usually be treated with the application of a special knee brace. However, ACL tears usually require surgical reconstruction to stabilize the knee and allow athletes to return to cutting and pivoting sports.

For athletes' ACL tears, a minimally invasive knee surgery, known as knee arthroscopy, is utilized to reconstruct the torn ligament, thus allowing patients to return to previous activities more quickly than with traditional open surgical techniques. Potential benefits of knee arthroscopy include smaller incisions and less tissue disruption, better visualization, and less blood loss during surgery, resulting in less scarring and a shorter, less painful recovery period. Knee arthroscopy is commonly performed on an outpatient basis, meaning the patient may be allowed to return home within one to two hours of surgery.

Anatomy of the Knee

The knee is a hinge joint, mainly comprised of the femur (thighbone) and the tibia (shinbone). These bones meet to form the main knee joint, with the patella (kneecap) gliding over the front of the knee. Resting between the femur and tibia are two pieces of cartilage, known as the menisci, which provide shock absorption during movement and help protect the bones from friction.

Attached to the knee joint are four ligaments that provide additional support and help limit the knee's range of motion. By limiting the knee's range of motion, these ligaments prevent the joint from moving beyond its natural capabilities.

Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Tears

The medial collateral ligament is located on the medial, or inner side, of the knee, and aids in the stabilization of the knee joint. This ligament runs from the bottom of the femur to the top of the tibia, and helps prevent the knee from collapsing inward. MCL tears typically occur due to excessive force on the opposite side of the knee. As the outside of the knee buckles due to trauma or excessive force, the MCL becomes strained and the fibers can partially or completely tear apart.

MCL Tear While Skiing

MCL tears are the most common ligament injuries occurring in winter sports, and account for 20–25% of all skiing injuries. Skiers using the “snow plow” position to stop may experience MCL tears due to the way in which the skis are turned. With the front of the skis pointed toward one another, the MCL is susceptible to tear if the inner edge of the ski catches and suddenly forces the knee into a further knocked knee position. The MCL can also tear when the lower leg is unexpectedly thrown outward (“catching an edge”).

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tears

ACL tears account for 10–15% of all skiing injuries, and are typically caused by backward twisting falls. The tail of a downhill ski and the back of the boot will twist the knee into an awkward position, causing the ACL to stretch beyond its means. Usually, the skier's hips fall below the knees when ACL tears occur. Skiing scenarios that cause the ACL to tear include:

  • Attempting to get upright while still moving after a fall
  • Attempting a recovery from an off-balance position with the knee in an excessive knock kneed position
  • Losing control and sitting on the backs of your skis while moving downhill

Learn more about ACL knee injuries »

Arthroscopy as a Minimally Invasive Knee Surgery

Knee arthroscopy is a type of surgery that utilizes smaller incisions and less invasive techniques that potentially provide patients with benefits that outweigh those of traditional surgery. Knee arthroscopy provides relief from pain and restoration of joint function, and also lends itself to an increased recovery. This is the preferred method for treating ACL TEARS.

Arthroscopic knee surgery is performed through the use of a fiber-optic camera, called an “arthroscope” that sends real-time images to a computer screen in the operating room. The orthopaedic surgeon can utilize this improved field of vision to make more precise repairs, allowing for decreased muscle and tissue damage and less blood loss during the surgery, leading to less scarring and loss of motion as one recovers.

Potential benefits of minimally invasive knee arthroscopy include:

  • Reduced scarring and better range of motion
  • Quicker post-operative recovery
  • Shortened hospital stay
  • Less blood loss during surgery
  • Quicker return to previous levels of activity
  • Lower rate of infection
  • More accurate and anatomic repairs of torn tissues
  • Click here to learn more about knee arthroscopy »

    Minimally Invasive Knee Surgery for Skiers in Vail, CO

    Dr. Rick Cunningham of Vail Summit Orthopaedics is a Board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with Fellowship-training in Sports Medicine, Knee, and Shoulder. He is an advocate of anatomic ACL reconstruction, cartilage restoration therapy and other innovative techniques that focus on getting patients back to the activities they love. To learn more about ski injury treatment in Vail, CO, schedule an appointment at Dr. Cunningham's office today.