ATLANTA—Dr. Liang-Ching Tsai, associate professor of physical therapy at Georgia State University, has received a $2.02 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the effects of knee rehabilitation following injury to preserve long-term knee cartilage health. Traumatic knee injuries, such as meniscus tears, increase the risk of osteoarthritis (OA) by 10 times and can lead to subsequent disability, costing the United States up to $3 billion annually in health care expenses.

OA is the leading cause of disability, with 27 million adults over age 25 having OA of any joint. Knees, along with ankles, are the most commonly injured joints.

Dr. Tsai hypothesizes that three factors improve knee rehabilitation outcomes — minimizing weight-bearing restriction, restoring physical activity level or correcting deviations in lower extremity joint motions during weight-bearing activities will delay the onset of post-traumatic knee OA. His goal is to better understand the development factors of post-traumatic OA and determine the optimal regenerative rehabilitation plans to slow OA progression after a traumatic joint injury.

“Knee osteoarthritis can eventually result in an increased risk of poor overall health,” said Dr. Tsai. “The majority of the individuals who experience traumatic knee injuries are young professional or recreational athletes or military personnel suffering from the damage in everyday activities. Therefore, the impact of knee OA is particularly significant in these young, active individuals who are likely to develop post-traumatic osteoarthritis [PTOA] much earlier than those who develop knee OA due to aging.”

Knee replacements generally last about 15 to 20 years, which isn’t optimal in younger patients who will likely need a second replacement surgery — delaying knee PTOA development can reduce the need for multiple joint surgeries later.

The grant includes the expertise of additional researchers from Georgia State, Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Oregon. Dr. Gordon Warren, Georgia State’s distinguished university professor of physical therapy is a co-investigator in the study.

For more information about Dr. Tsai’s research, visit the Lewis College research faculty website.


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