Articular cartilage defects of the knee are common among athletes where the physical demands of sport result in significant stresses on joints. Chondral defects are associated with pain and functional impairment that limit sporting participation and may progress to joint degeneration and frank arthritis. Management of established chondral lesions aims to allow athletes to return to high-impact sports and can be considered in terms of protection of existing cartilage, chondrofacilitation, and resurfacing. Repaired and regenerated cartilage must closely resemble and function like normal hyaline cartilage, and this ability may be the most significant factor for the return to sport. Based on our experiences and the available literature, we outline how athletes can best protect their cartilage, how physicians can facilitate intrinsic repair of established lesions, and which methods of cartilage restoration or resurfacing should be used in different situations.


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