The sounds of creaking knees may soon be music to the ears of injured athletes. In Akron a team of scientists led by biologist Dr. Richard A. Mostardi, formerly a defensive back with the Cleveland Browns and the Minnesota Vikings, has been feeding the tape-recorded sounds of the movements of damaged knees into a computer for the past four years.
"A healthy knee is fairly noise free," says Mostardi. "Everything fits together. But a damaged one sounds somewhat like sandpaper." The computer makes a spectral analysis of the sounds, producing a profile of the injury or irregularity.
Dr. Ivan Gradisar says, "Not only can we evaluate the condition of the joint surfaces with this technique, and do it more accurately than before, we also eliminate the painful procedure of arthroscopy, of surgically looking into the knee."
Up to now the sound-comparison system has been used mostly on lab animals and for diagnosing severe arthritis in a few human patients, but the team intends to begin clinical application within six months.
Says Gradisar, "It won't be too far in the future when sound profiles of knees are a regular part of every pro football team's physical exam."
This is not only welcome news to the blindside crowd, but the same technology can be applied to the great symphony of elbows and ankles sounding off out there by the millions.
SHOT OUT OF THE GATE
Waiting for the starter's bell at Redcar racecourse in England, Stetchworth, a 9 to 1 long shot who had never won a race in his short career, reared and bucked in the starting gate, threatening to throw his rider. According to the Daily Mail, when the gate opened he streaked out, powered down the seven-furlong course and sped across the finish line half a length ahead of his nearest challenger. While long-shot bettors rejoiced, track officials examined him and learned that Stetchworth had been hit on the rump by a pellet from an air gun just before the start.
Three boys armed with air pistols were subsequently found in the long grass near the starting gate. In juvenile court, the prosecuting solicitor didn't regard the offense as overly grave. "A small mark was found on the horse's flesh," he said. "It did not appear to suffer too much." Two of the boys were fined, and the third—who admitted to an unrelated burglary—was put into official care.