Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Guarantee with Brackens' Unique Surgery; Procedure Isn't Always Successful

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

No Guarantee with Brackens' Unique Surgery; Procedure Isn't Always Successful

Article excerpt

Byline: Bart Hubbuch, Times-Union sports writer

Tony Brackens didn't travel all the way to Vail, Colo., last week for simple or even routine surgery on his ailing left knee.

The Jaguars' veteran defensive end underwent a "microfracture" procedure, and nothing less than his playing career could be at stake.

Even the surgeons who worked on Brackens at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Colorado can't offer him better than a 80-percent chance of a full recovery from the relatively new operation, which attempts to replace lost cartilage in the knee with scar tissue.

"But a repair can sometimes prolong a player's career by several years," said Richard Steadman, who devised the surgery 20 years ago and performed it on Brackens last Wednesday.

The surgery remains controversial in NFL circles because its results are mixed, even though Steadman and his operating partner, Richard Hawkins, have done more than 1,000 microfracture surgeries the past 10 years.

The two surgeons said Washington defensive end Bruce Smith, Oakland safety Rod Woodson and former Jaguars linebacker Kevin Hardy, now with Dallas, all had microfracture surgeries that allowed them to play again.

At the same time, the list of NFL players who had microfracture and didn't come back is also long.

Among the pros who didn't respond to microfracture: Andre Wadsworth and Eric Swann of Arizona and Chuck Smith and Patrick Jeffers of Carolina. New York Giants center Dusty Zeigler, who had not missed a game the past two seasons, has played in two games this year after the surgery.

"Does [microfracture] get an 'A' each time? No," orthopedic surgeon Stuart Springer told The New York Times last summer.

The procedure itself is complicated and messy. It involves drilling small holes, or microfractures, in the area of the knee that has defective cartilage or no cartilage at all. Bone marrow and blood from the holes then form clots that, with time, become scar tissue that acts as a buffer similar to cartilage. …

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