Here’s what’s tricky about knee surgery. It’s really important that a surgeon pay attention to the complaints a patient has and to corroborate those complaints with physical examination and MRI findings.  When there is the synergy of all three, surgery is warranted and works well.  We know this, and medical literature supports it.

Unfortunately, often times patients have undergone surgery for the wrong indications.  Indications are what surgeons learn in residency and fellowship and can be cured by performing surgery.

Even when surgery is performed for the right indications, the postoperative recovery can take unexpected twists and turns.  Prone to periods of accelerated improvement punctuated by stretches of apparent stasis. For example, there is no calendar for how we recover from ACL knee surgery. Although most often patients ‘recover’ over four to eight months after surgery, our bodies follow their own timeline despite medical efforts.

So when an athlete offers a date for when she expects to be fully recovered from knee surgery, that day isn’t written in stone. Even someone clearly on track to regain full mobility and flexibility can reinjure their knee, setting or even resetting that recovery process back to zero.

All of which brings me to Lindsey Vonn, the world-class athlete whose triumphant return to the slopes at Sochi has been scuttled by reinjury:

Vonn tore her anterior cruciate and medial collateral knee ligaments in a tumbling crash 11 months ago at the world championships, but had appeared to be ahead of schedule in her recovery for the Sochi Olympics until a training crash Nov. 19 in Colorado. At that time, she said that she had partly torn her rebuilt anterior cruciate ligament and would still be able to participate in the Olympics. . .

On Dec. 21, Vonn entered a more demanding World Cup downhill in Val d’Isère, France — with Woods at the bottom of the hill, watching. About halfway through the course, her right knee buckled as she tried to make a high-speed turn, and she skidded off the course. After the race, for the first time, Vonn acknowledged her A.C.L. injury was more severe.

She said the ligament had been ruptured.

She has not been on skis since.

It is a teachable moment and a cautionary tale when an athlete pushes harder than most orthopedic surgeons might recommend in the interest of meeting a deadline. In Vonn’s case, that deadline was the Olympics: who could blame her? We have tons and tons of young elite level female soccer players in San Diego who feel the same drive of getting back out there…push push push.  I’m onboard, as long as the body can keep pace with our type ‘A’ drive. Often times that type ‘A’ drive gets us to the finish line with respect to our strength training and back out on the field to score.  Sometimes athletes get out on the field for contact or agility sports to early and are vulnerable to reinjury.  Know anyone who underwent revision ACL reconstruction?  For those of us non-Olympians with knee injuries recovering from ACL reconstruction here in San Diego, there is nothing quite as effective as rest, patience, rehabilitation….lots and lots of self-directed core-strengthening and agility training!

It all starts with an expert orthopedic surgeon.  One that you can trust will guide you to conservative care when appropriate and to surgery when appropriate.  Seek a consultation with a doctor that will take the time to listen to you, examine you, and properly treat you. To schedule your own San Diego knee surgery, please contact the experts here today.


One can’t spend much time in the field of orthopedic surgery without noticing countless mentions across every section of the newspaper. This month alone brought a fine set of case studies in the power of knee surgery and its transformative effect on active lives.

In my last post I covered the NFL, so this week let us take a small detour here into the world of cinematic icons and discuss the case of Dame Judy Dench. The legendary actress underwent knee replacement surgery in September and is already performing live and walking red carpets with aplomb. My favorite recent quote from the notoriously feisty 78-year-old: “I’m not feeling my age at all. I am about 43, a tall willowy blonde 43-year-old with long legs.”

Meanwhile the sports section brings us news of the Magic’s Solomon Jones, whose torn meniscus has left him sidelined and primed for surgery. The most likely option given his injury is arthroscopic knee surgery, which should involve some reconstruction and rehabilitation to help minimize any deleterious and lasting longterm effects of the meniscus tear.

And of course there is this new athletic power couple, who share the dubious honor of having both undergone knee surgery. Tiger Woods returned to form as expected, and Lindsey Vonn is currently enjoying a full complement of races on the way to this winter’s Olympics in Sochi:

Knee surgery is an orthopedic surgical procedure that comes in many forms. It remains a stalwart of our profession and one of the best-studied interventions we have for knee injuries. If you are suffering from impaired movement, comfort or balance due to pain in your knees, contact me at the San Diego Orthopedic Surgery center today to learn about your options to return to play and enjoy your youthfulness.

© 2023 Dr. Robert Afra – San Diego Orthopedic Surgery Shoulder – Knee – Elbow