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Dr. Carolyn Hettrich

Shoulder specialist, researcher joins UK Sports Medicine team

UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine welcomed shoulder specialist Dr. Carolyn Hettrich to the team earlier this summer. Hettrich will see patients, take care of UK athletes and conduct research.

Originally from Portland, Ore., Hettrich has studied and worked across the country. She completed her undergraduate studies in Los Angeles at Pomona College and went to medical school at the University of Washington. After graduating medical school, Hettrich completed a residency at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and a fellowship at Vanderbilt University. She has spent the past six years working in Iowa.

As a member of the team at UK Sports Medicine, Hettrich said she is looking forward to providing care for patients with shoulder disorders and conducting leading-edge research studies.

In fact, one of the reasons Hettrich decided to join UK HealthCare is because of UK’s emphasis on research.

“I’ll have the opportunity to do the research I’m interested in,” she said.

Hettrich’s research interests focus on three areas: clinical outcomes after shoulder surgery, computer modeling for shoulder replacement, and tendon and bone healing. Hettrich is the principal investigator on the largest prospective study in the world for shoulder instability surgery. The study has 950 patients currently enrolled and is operating at 12 sites nationwide.

Her research expertise meshes well with work already being done at UK Sports Medicine, particularly the work of Dr. Christian Lattermann. Hettrich and Lattermann are both part of the Multicenter Orthopaedic Outcomes Network (MOON) and share a mentor.

“We are very proud Dr. Hettrich joined UK Sports Medicine,” Lattermann said. “She brings an extraordinary expertise in shoulder-related, patient-centered translational research, which accelerates our efforts at UK to become a national leader in patient-related outcomes research.” Additionally, she is an outstanding shoulder surgeon, Lattermann said.

When she’s not conducting research, treating patients or working as a team physician for the UK football team, Hettrich is looking forward to continuing her advocacy work on behalf of her patients. Her master’s degree in public health focused on health policy gives her insight into how she can advocate for her patients and research funding.

Each year, on Research Capitol Hill Days, Hettrich takes patients to meet with congressional leaders in Washington D.C. to show the direct impact of research funding. Hettrich is especially interested in musculoskeletal research because musculoskeletal conditions affect half of the adult population in the U.S., with expenditures related to these conditions accounting for nearly 6 percent of the gross domestic product.


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Dr. Lattermann, director for Cartilage Repair and Restoration at UK HealthCare, spoke about what inspired his career in sports medicine.

Watch: 5 questions with sports surgeon Dr. Christian Lattermann

Each day brings something different for Dr. Christian Lattermann; that’s one of the things that keeps him passionate about his job.

As director of the Center for Cartilage Repair and Restoration at UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine, Lattermann treats patients, does community outreach, conducts research and mentors students.

Even though he’s a leader in the field, he says his patients teach him something new every day.

Watch this episode of “Five Questions” to learn how a semi-professional soccer career inspired Lattermann to become an orthopaedic surgeon and why he’s so excited about the sports medicine research happening here at UK.


Next steps:

  • Learn more about the UK Center for Cartilage Repair and Restoration, which offers operative and nonoperative treatments for a wide array of cartilage-related conditions.
  • After a torn meniscus and a failed surgery, marathon runner Lisa Hall was told she would need a knee replacement. Not willing to give up on her goals, Lisa turned to UK Sports Medicine and Dr. Lattermann for help. Read Lisa’s story.
A torn ACL results in a significant risk of developing arthritis within 10 to 15 years. If you've torn your ACL, be on the lookout for arthritis symptoms.

A torn ACL could lead to arthritis, writes UK orthopaedic surgeon

Written by Christian Lattermann, MD, director of the UK Center for Cartilage Repair and Restoration

Christian Lattermann, MD

A torn anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of the most common knee injuries, with as many as 200,000 cases per year in the U.S. Young people under the age of 20 are at particular risk, in part because of participation in sports.

Despite the frequency of torn ACLs, many people don’t know that the injury results in a significant risk of developing arthritis within 10 to 15 years. Around 70 to 80 percent of patients with a torn ACL will develop arthritis within that time frame. Because most ACL injuries occur in young people, this means that arthritis could set in at a very early age. If a patient is 15 years old when she tears her ACL, for example, she could be struggling with arthritis by the age of 30.

The increased risk of arthritis is true regardless of whether the ACL tear is surgically repaired or not. The actual injury, and the knee’s inflammatory response to the trauma, seem to be the culprits. The ACL is one of four main ligaments in the knee, connecting the thighbone to the shinbone, and any injury severe enough to tear the ligament is likely to affect other parts of the knee, as well. We also see bruises to the bone and damage to the cartilage, meniscus or other ligaments with about half of all ACL injuries.

At UK, doctors and researchers are currently trying to find ways to reduce the risk of arthritis by interrupting the inflammatory process in the week following the ACL injury. We hope that our research will lead to better long-term outcomes for patients who experience ACL tears.

If you’ve torn your ACL in the past, be on the lookout for signs of arthritis in your knee. Symptoms include pain and swelling with activity. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s best to consult an orthopaedic sports medicine specialist, who will be trained in issues related to ACL injury and recovery.

If you’ve recently experienced an ACL injury, the most important thing for your recovery is adequate rehabilitation. The musculature around the knee joint is the biggest factor to prevent re-injury. The re-tear rate for ACL reconstruction under the age of 20 is around 20 to 25 percent, but a large portion of that can be prevented by being enrolled and trained in injury prevention rehabilitation.


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UK Sports Medicine patient Lisa Hall

Runner chases Boston Marathon qualification with help of UK Sports Medicine

While teaching a fitness class in May 2012, Lisa Hall realized something was wrong with her knee.

After seeing an orthopaedic surgeon close to her home in Knoxville, Tenn., Hall was diagnosed with a tear in her meniscus, the soft disc of cartilage that cushions the knee. She underwent surgery to treat the injury and alleviate her pain so that she could continue to teach fitness classes and run. Her goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Unfortunately, Hall’s surgery was unsuccessful, and she developed bone-on-bone arthritis. In August 2012, she consulted with a second surgeon, looking for treatment options that could reduce her discomfort and allow her to continue her active lifestyle. It was then that she received some bad news: She was told she likely needed a knee replacement and that she should give up running.

Dr. Lattermann offers a solution

Christian Lattermann, MD

Hall refused to give up her dream of running the Boston Marathon, and a physician at Vanderbilt University referred her to Dr. Christian Lattermann at the UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine.

Lattermann specializes in treating injuries and other conditions that cause pain and degeneration of knee and shoulder joints. He recommended an osteotomy, a surgical procedure where a wedge of bone is removed from the tibia (shin bone) or femur (thigh bone) to realign the leg and shift weight from away from the area of the knee damaged by arthritis. In Hall’s case, the wedge was then filled with a bone graft and reinforced with a metal plate to support her knee.

Never one to shy away from a physical challenge, Hall completed physical therapy after surgery and was given the green light to use an indoor bike or elliptical to continue her recovery. Hall’s increased activity caused her knee pain to return, but it didn’t stop her from biking or participating in fitness classes again.

In May 2013, however, she felt a pop while performing a squat exercise and was forced to rest her knee with for five additional weeks after Lattermann surgically replaced the original plate supporting her knee.

Despite the setback, Hall followed Lattermann’s second rehabilitation instructions and returned to teaching group fitness classes. By December 2013, she was running on a special treadmill that reduced the impact of running on her knee joint. In March 2014, Hall competed in her first half marathon since her first surgery. She’s now completed two full marathons and several more half marathons.

“I really didn’t want a knee replacement, but no other doctor offered me anything else,” Hall said. “Dr. Lattermann offered me hope. I know that God led me to Dr. Lattermann and worked through him to allow me to run and teach again.”

In 2015, Lattermann removed the metal plate in her knee, and Hall continues to train. She missed her goal of qualifying for the 2017 Boston Marathon this past year by only two minutes.

‘Don’t give up’

The support Hall received from Lattermann and the care team at UK Sports Medicine is what keeps her returning to Lexington every six months for follow-up visits.

Lattermann’s advice for athletes hoping to maintain their level of activity is to talk about their goals with an orthopaedic surgeon who has expertise in both joint replacement and sports medicine. He also said it’s important for patients to understand the potential limitations of different treatment options.

“While one solution may allow high level of function, it may not allow complete pain-free activity,” Lattermann said.

Although Hall knows that not every surgical option works for every patient, she advises other patients to advocate for themselves.

“Keep searching, don’t give up – there are answers,” she said.


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