Autologous chondrocyte implantation for treatment of articular cartilage defects in the knee and ankle of football (soccer) players

Martin Husen, Roel J.H. Custers, Aaron J. Krych, Daniel B.F. Saris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) continues to evolve into one of the most efficient and common techniques for repair of articular cartilage defects. Significant progress has been made within the last decade regarding its application in the context of professional sports, such as football. This article provides a current overview of the application of ACI in the context of amateur and professional football. Methods: Clinical studies involving football players and other high-impact sports athletes treated with ACI were reviewed. The scientific and technical development of ACI was evaluated considering latest publications, and analyzed for treatment outcome parameters. Results: Football players reported good to excellent results after treatment with ACI or matrix-associated chondrocyte implantation (MACI). Activity scores and clinical knee and ankle scores were significantly improved after surgery. Great advances have been made in surgery specific rehabilitation algorithms, leading to shorter return to play times. New surgical techniques have been introduced, reducing the 2-stage design of ACI to only one surgical intervention, accelerating return to play time further while reducing morbidity. Conclusion: Surgical repair of focal articular cartilage defects via ACI in football players often provides successful return-to-competition and produces long lasting regeneration tissue, enabling players to continue their career on the pre-injury level of play. The technique itself is constantly evolving, addressing initial shortcomings and making it more widespread available to the recreational and professional athlete.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100059
JournalJournal of Cartilage and Joint Preservation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI)
  • Cartilage
  • FIFA
  • Football
  • Return to play
  • Soccer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Surgery
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Rheumatology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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