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Kenneth DeHaven, M.D., '63: A well-timed career
If anything can be credited with revolutionizing professional and amateur sports, it's arthroscopic surgery. DMS alumnus Kenneth DeHaven, M.D., has played a key role in that revolution.
It used to be that a knee injury—especially a tear in the meniscus, a wedge of cartilage within the joint—could prematurely end an athlete's career. Before the 1970s, the standard treatment for knee tears was complete removal of the meniscus via open surgery; without a meniscus, it was nearly impossible to play a sport competitively. DeHaven, an athlete himself, has since helped to pioneer arthroscopy—a minimally invasive technique involving the use of a flexible, fiber-optic device to see inside the joint, diagnose the extent of an injury, and even repair it.
DeHaven knows about sports injuries firsthand. In high school, he lettered in football, basketball, and track. And at Dartmouth, he was a star football player—center on offense and linebacker on defense; he helped lead Dartmouth to its first Ivy League championship in 1958 and was captain of the team in 1960. DeHaven was lucky. He never had any major injuries. But his experience with minor ones spurred his interest in sports medicine, a field that was emerging while he was still in training.
"One of the first things that gave me some insight was when I was a sophomore in high school and I had a foot fracture," he recalls. He figures that he injured his foot doing the high jump during track season in the spring of his ninth-grade year. "It was probably a stress fracture that wasn't too severe."
After an x-ray confirmed the fracture, DeHaven asked his family physician if he could play football that fall. The doctor didn't know but referred DeHaven to someone who might: a new orthopaedic
surgeon in town who had just completed his residency at the University of Michigan, where he'd helped to take care of its football team.
The surgeon had good news: As long as the injury didn't bother DeHaven too much, he could play. Then at the end of football season, the surgeon said, he should have a cast put on the injured foot.
DeHaven's father, who tested products for the home appliance manufacturer Frigidaire, crafted an aluminum insole to fit inside his son's shoe. "It was bent a little so I could get kind of a rockeraction push-off," says DeHaven. The stress fracture "didn't really hurt that much. So I played the whole season and then went into a cast afterwards." He missed basketball season that winter, but his foot healed fine.
Most doctors would have put a cast on right away, DeHaven says, forcing him to miss football season. It was, he adds, "my first exposure to having a little bit of
a different mind-set about injuries for in-season and pre-season athletes." That exposure, combined with his growing interest in medicine, eventually propelled him into orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine.
His initial attraction to medicine may have been stimulated by his own family's medical problems. DeHaven was just 9 when his 15-yearold brother died of leukemia. And his father had a malignant lymphoma on his neck that was treated with radiation. The therapy caused complications, including necrosis, or tissue death, on his father's ear and neck as well as in the underlying bone. "He had a long series of major, ticklish, delicate surgeries and then had major skin grafting done," DeHaven recalls. "Most of my memories growing up, he always had a big bandage on his head."
Some years later, all grown up, DeHaven was a resident in surgery at the Cleveland Clinic just as, coincidentally, the concept of sports medicine was beginning to take shape. The chair of orthopaedic surgery at Cleveland, C. McCollister Evarts, M.D., had recruited Roy Collins, M.D., to start one of the first sports medicine programs in the country. DeHaven worked with Collins and also did a three-month rotation in Atlanta with Fred Allman, M.D. Allman, explains DeHaven, was "the first person in the U.S. who had gone into full-time orthopaedic sports medicine."
After finishing his residency in 1972, DeHaven stayed on at the Cleveland Clinic. Evarts—one of the first chairs in the country to develop an orthopaedics department along subspecialty lines—asked DeHaven what he'd like to pursue in addition to sports medicine. "Arthroscopy," DeHaven replied. He'd taken a knee course with arthroscopy pioneer Robert Jackson, M.D., who practiced in Toronto, and he wanted to learn more. As it happens, Collins had
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Laura Carter is Dartmouth Medicine magazine's associate editor.