Stories about: Dr. Yi-Meng Yen

Play ball: Back on the field after catcher’s knee

catchers kneeBrian Burke, a rising senior at Curry College, has been playing baseball for as long as he can remember. He loves his sport and hopes to have a shot at the pros after graduation.

It’s a far cry from where he thought he would be four years ago when he had surgery for osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) in his right knee. With OCD, blood supply to the knee is restricted, damaging the bone and cartilage, and sometimes causing a piece of bone and cartilage to separate. The condition can increase an athlete’s risk for early arthritis.

“When I first heard that I needed surgery, I though my career was over,” recalls Brian.

It’s important to trust the rehabilitation process, and do your exercises every day. I felt 1,000 times better than before surgery.

His orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mininder Kocher, associate director of the Boston Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine Division, reassured Brian that he would be able to return to his beloved sport … as long as he committed to rehabilitation.

“What Brian had is catcher’s knee, a condition that hasn’t been described before,” says Kocher.

What is catcher’s knee?

Athletes, especially growing athletes who specialize in one position at a young age, are at risk for overuse conditions, explains Kocher.

It’s fairly common for kids to become catching specialists by age 10. They’re catching all of the time, which means they’re sitting in a hyperflexed position and then standing up rapidly to throw. “Catchers are doing this through every game and practice,” says Kocher.

With OCD, the bone and articular cartilage that protects the end of the bone separate; it hampers the normal, fluid functioning of the knee and can cause pain and swelling. “We’re seeing the condition in catchers. But it manifests differently than typical OCD. It tends to be more extensive and advanced, and it involves the back of the knee,” says Kocher.

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