Scientific Evidence Base for Cartilage Injury and Repair in the Athlete

M. R. Steinwachs, L. Engebretsen, R. H. Brophy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Soccer players and athletes in high-impact sports are frequently affected by knee injuries. Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament and menisci are frequently observed in soccer players and may increase the risk of developing an articular cartilage lesion. In high-level athletes, the overall prevalence of knee articular cartilage lesions has been reported to be 36% to 38%. The treatment for athletic patients with articular cartilage lesions is often challenging because of the high demands placed on the repair tissue by impact sports. Cartilage defects in athletes can be treated with microfracture, osteochondral grafting, and autologous chondrocyte implantation. There is increasing scientific evidence for cartilage repair in athletes, with more extensive information available for microfracture and autologous chondrocyte implantation than for osteochondral grafting. The reported rates and times to return to sport at the preinjury level are variable in recreational players, with the best results seen in younger and high-level athletes. Better return to sport is consistently observed for all repair techniques with early cartilage repair. Besides minimizing sensorimotor deficits and addressing accompanying pathologies, the quality of the repair tissue may be a significant factor for the return to sport.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11s-17s
Issue number1 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 2012


  • articular cartilage injury
  • athletes
  • cartilage repair
  • return to sports
  • scientific evidence
  • sports injury knee


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