When K. Donald Shelbourne, MD, cares for athletes with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), he understands what they’re going through—he tore his ACL while an All-American football player studying chemistry at Wabash College. Dr. Shelbourne was also captain of the wrestling team and winner of an NCAA Post Graduate Scholarship in wrestling.
The injury stoked Dr. Shelbourne's interest in helping other athletes with knee injuries. He went to Indiana University Medical School and decided to specialize in orthopedic knee surgery.
Since then, Dr. Shelbourne has performed more than 7,000 ACL reconstructions and many other procedures for knee injuries. His patients include high school and college athletes and NFL players.
A Good Outcome for Every Patient
“Our goal is to make sure that every patient has a good outcome,” says the lifelong Indiana resident who has been taking care of patients’ knees since 1982.
That year, the mother of a 15-year-old girl whose ACL Dr. Shelbourne had reconstructed asked him a question he couldn’t answer. “She wanted to know what was going to happen to her daughter’s knee in 20 years. I had no idea,” recalls Dr. Shelbourne.
To learn what would happen and to find ways to improve treatment for knee problems, Dr. Shelbourne began to collect data on his patients. He and his team have been tracking patient outcomes and studying factors related to those outcomes for 37 years now.
An Exclusive Focus on Knees
“So many things being done for bad knees don’t need to be done,” says Dr. Shelbourne. Orthopedic surgeons haven’t been taught how to take care of knees.” Part of the problem is that most orthopedic surgeons treat a variety of orthopedic issues. Shelbourne Knee Center, established in 2004, is the only orthopedic practice in Indiana that focuses exclusively on knees.
Dr. Shelbourne starts with a thorough exam of both knees to accurately diagnosis knee problems. Then he uses treatments proven by his research to be effective.
An Innovative Approach
Often, those treatments differ from standard medical practice. For example, Dr. Shelbourne delays ACL surgery until the patient’s knee and mind are ready. Preparing the knee includes eliminating swelling and pre-op rehab (physical therapy) to improve range of motion (ROM) and strengthen the knee before surgery.
“An ACL tear isn’t an emergency. We get better outcomes when the knee is ready and the patient is ready for surgery mentally,” says Dr. Shelbourne.
Full recovery—knee symmetry and the ability to return to competitive sport—is the goal for every ACL patient. Use of a contralateral patellar tendon graft (PTG) in ACL reconstruction and an accelerated ACL rehab protocol enable athletes to recover and return to sport safely and faster.
A Contributor to the Field of Orthopedics
Dr. Shelbourne shares his knowledge with orthopedic surgeons worldwide. He has authored more than 150 journal articles and 40 book chapters, and has made presentations at many medical meetings. Recently, Dr. Shelbourne was the keynote speaker at the 2018 Wexham Park Cruciate Ligament Meeting, held in London and drawing 250 knee surgeons and aspiring knee surgeons, along with physical therapists, from many countries.
A Contributor to the Community
Along with his clinical practice, Dr. Shelbourne serves or has served as team physician and/or orthopedic consultant to:
- The NFL’s Indianapolis Colts
- Purdue University
- Wabash College
- Local high schools
Dr. Shelbourne is an Associate Clinical Professor at Indiana University School of Medicine and a member of five halls of fame:
- Wabash College Athletic Hall of Fame
- American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s Hall of Fame
- Indiana High School Football Hall of Fame
- Indiana High School Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Division Three Wrestling Hall of Fame
Wabash College awarded Dr. Shelbourne the 2019 Man of Philanthropy award for his ongoing contributions to the college. Those contributions included providing funding for the Shelbourne Wrestling Center and serving as a trustee for many years.
The Shelbourne Wrestling Center, dedicated in 2016, is a practice facility for wrestling that also is used for athletic activities such as aerobics, martial arts and yoga. In 2001, Wabash College awarded Dr. Shelbourne an Honorary Doctorate of Science Degree.
For more information about ACL reconstruction or Dr. Shelbourne, call 888-FIX-KNEE or email firstname.lastname@example.org.