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There is a transplant that keeps professional athletes in the game and works the same way to keep regular patients on their feet. For young adults not yet ready for joint replacement and who can’t go the distance living with debilitating pain, donor cartilage comes into play.

An intact, healthy piece of cartilage orthopedic surgeon Dr Brian Cole will transplant in his patient’s knee is about the size of a quarter.

The procedure is called an osteochondral allograft. But before Dr Cole, professor orthopedic surgery at Rush University Medical Center, could do the surgery, he needed donor tissue.

Think of it like an organ donation.

“Someone who would otherwise donate their heart, liver and lungs also donate their cartilage,” Dr Cole said. “Typically they are very young donors. Most of them have died in traumatic accidents and things of that nature but we utilize their cartilage to treat local spots of arthritis.”

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