Brian Williams joins rising numbers of boomers getting new knees

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams—August 8, 2013

As we get older, none of us seems to be immune to deteriorating and painful knees. And that includes NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, who announced tonight that he will be taking leave to have knee surgery.

Williams took a helmet to knee hit while playing high school football and has been in pain ever since.

Williams joins a multitude of other Americans with bad knees opting for surgery. Over the past decade the rate of knee surgeries has risen dramatically from 378,000 in 2003 to an estimated 704,000 in 2012, according to a government report released in 2012. The report also finds that people are getting knee surgery at younger and younger ages.

In William’s case, the pain has gotten so bad that it is interfering with his sleep, he said, so he decided it was time for the surgery.

“I reached a point recently in the last 12 months where I decided this has to happen and to be mathematical about it, I've lived now most of my days so worst case scenario, if this doesn't go perfectly well, which it will, it can't hurt more than it hurts now,” Williams says.

Knee replacement sounds a lot worse than it is. In reality the knee itself isn’t replaced, just the joint’s deteriorated cartilage. So, instead of cartilage, patients end up with metal on one side of the joint and plastic on the other.

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After fully recovering from surgery, patients can often do many of the things they’d had to give up, says Dr. Russell Windsor, attending orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, N.Y.

“The only thing we really don't advocate is long distance, every day running, which is what a lot of people do do,” Windsor says. “But you can do low impact things all day long for example. You could bike. Do the elliptical treadmill. You can do everything and by that I mean, you could play doubles tennis. You could run within the context of the sport you play here and there for fun. And so in essence, overall, for all intents and purposes, when you do a knee replacement, the overall function gets back to as close as a normal lifestyle as you could get it.”

View the segment at nbcnews.com.

Read Dr. Mayman's Q and A at nbcnews.com.

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