New hope for treating knee injuries

Drake Ross is recovering from surgery to fix the meniscus in his knee. He's the first patient in the U.S. to undergo a new procedure using a plastic replacement.

"I'm looking forward to being pain free," Ross told CBS News. "I have real bad arthritis too and that's part of what contributed."

The meniscus is cartilage between the shin and thigh bones. Once it's damaged, it doesn't always heal, which can cause a person to experience chronic knee pain. It can lead to arthritis, and sometimes patients end up needing knee replacement surgery.

Meniscus tears commonly occur during contact sports such as football. The injury is also is prevalent among people who run, play soccer or volleyball and other sports that require jumping, a movement that puts pressure on the knees. Because meniscus cartilage weakens with age, the injury is especially common among older athletes.

Surgeons in Ohio are the first in the U.S. to test a new plastic meniscus replacement. During the experimental surgery, doctors at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center implanted the device which replaced most of Ross' damaged meniscus.

"It can relieve pain and hopefully slow progression of arthritis in that compartment," Dr. Christopher Kaeding, an orthopedist an sports medicine specialist at OSU Wexner Medical Center. "Developing these new tools or procedures to help patients keep better or stay active, its fun to be part of a field that's advancing."

Dr. Kaeding says the new approach could be a good option for younger, active patients who are considered too young for knee replacement because that surgery only lasts about 10 years.

Nearly two months after the procedure, Ross is back on his feet. He's working with a physical therapist and says his range of motion is back.