Dec. 1, 2022

UCalgary's Sport Medicine Centre leads the world in recruitment for anterior cruciate ligament research

Local support is available to patients throughout their recovery from knee surgery
Dr. Alex Rezansoff, MD (left), Dr. Lisa Phillips, MD, Denise Chan, research coordinator
Alex Rezansoff, left, Lisa Phillips, and Denise Chan. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

A research team at the University of Calgary Sport Medicine Centre (SMC) is leading patient recruitment for the largest international randomized clinical trial for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. STABILITY-2 will compare surgical outcomes in 1,236 patients between the ages of 14 and 25 over the course of five years. Of the study’s 29 sites across Canada, the U.S., and Europe, the University of Calgary has found the most patients to participate.

Dr. Alex Rezansoff, MD, is the trial’s local principal investigator. The orthopedic surgeon says the results from this trial will be monumental in terms of guiding patient treatment. He says for the SMC to be a leading contributor in such an important trial is a great boost to the university’s profile as a leading research institution.

"We are working together with the two principal centres, the University of Pittsburgh and Western University, along with the likes of Stanford and the Mayo Clinic to provide high-quality clinical evidence that will ultimately inform surgical treatment for young, active patients at high risk of ACL re-injury,” says Rezansoff.

Much of the credit for Calgary’s recruitment success can be given to research co-ordinator, Denise Chan, MSc, whose work with the SMC has helped bolster participation rates amongst qualifying patients.

“I work with all three of the surgeons and we’ve established a pretty good system for recruiting and following patients and just working really well together as a team,” Chan says, adding that the Acute Knee Injury Clinic has been helpful with providing referrals.

The trial received $3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The Sport Medicine Centre has received additional, local funding from the Simpson Family Endowment Fund and the Section of Orthopedic Surgery in the Department of Surgery at the Cumming School of Medicine.

“The main reason why we’re recruiting more than anyone else is because we also have local funding to support this participation in the trial,” says Dr. Nick Mohtadi, MD, medical director of the SMC. “This allows us to contribute more dedicated time and effort to engage our patients to carry out the detailed assessments and followup visits. This study highlights both locally and globally the groundbreaking work taking place in our centre.”

Dr. Lisa Phillips, MD, with client

Lisa Phillips tests the knee of a patient in the study.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Surgeries for the trial are performed by Rezansoff and Mohtadi at the Peter Lougheed Centre, and Dr. Lisa Phillips, MD, at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Once the patient is in the operating room, a computer makes a randomized choice from four options as to what type of procedure the patient receives. The goal is to find better ways to help this population of young athletes who continue to face high rates of re-injury.

“That’s why we’re focusing on the young people,” says Mohtadi. “Rather than trying to figure out what’s the best operation for everybody we’re trying to figure out what’s a better operation for the highest-risk group.”

For Chan, there’s a personal connection behind her success. She, too, has torn her ACL and therefore understands the journey these young patients are on.

“I fully appreciate what they are going through, and I think the emotional side of it is huge,” she says. “A lot of them are either in varsity or some sort of competitive level and they're just devastated because they can’t go back.”

Due to the local support, Chan can be available to patients throughout their recovery. This empathetic attention is another of the many factors that make the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Kinesiology the top school for sport science across North America.

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