KEVIN STONE SEEMS LIKE YOUR TYPICAL ORTHOPEDIC surgeon: He's type-A+. He bikes 15 miles to the office each morning, windsurfs in San Francisco Bay most evenings after work, and skis at least 30 days a year. But when it comes to treating skiing's elite athletes, the 49-year-old former U.S. Ski Team sawbones really goes nuts: He whacks damaged cartilage with big plastic mallets. He strings pig ligaments in place of shredded ACLs. "When I start a project, I know I'll spend a decade of my life working on it—most times maniacally, he says.
While the innovative doc's approach may be weird, it really is science. The skiing world first noticed Stone in 1991, when he devised "paste grafting, an alternative method of knee repair. He removes damaged cartilage and mashes it—along with bone and marrow cells—into a pulp that he reforms as a cartilage patch. The procedure has proven itself as good as more traditional treatments—and sometimes even better. As a result, the grisly-sounding technique quickly gained street cred. "After seven surgeries in four years on my knee, I couldn't take any chances, says 34-year-old freeskier Matt Reardon, who has been competing in big mountain comps since 1993. "I wanted someone with a hungrier, more cutting-edge philosophy to make me superhuman again—and that's what I got. Reardon, who underwent a paste graft six months ago, plans to heli-ski Alaska come March.
But wait—it gets weirder. Stone's most recent project centers on "xenotransplantation—replacing damaged human tissue with animal parts, mostly from pigs. Why use the other white meat? "It's cheap, plentiful, strong, and consistent, says Stone. In a breakthrough last year, he discovered a way to strip pig tissue of the antigens that cause the human body to reject it. And in September, the FDA approved his new procedure for large-scale clinical trials. It could be available in the U.S. as soon as 2007. "Patients may balk, but when another option involves using leftovers from a dead guy, they'll pick the pig, he says. But not everybody digs on swine. "Dr. Stone puts his body and soul into healing you, says Reardon. "But I still don't want a pig in me.
FIRST TURNS: Mt. Cranmore, New Hampshire, age 3
SPEED DEMON: Stone will compete (as he does every year) in the invite-only Pro-Am Director's Cup Race at Sun Valley on March 9—13.
TAKE THAT: In another such race, the American Ski Classic, Stone bested Susan Ford (Gerald Ford's daughter) in the final heat, winning his team the cup.
ON HIS COLLEAGUES: "Orthopedic surgeons tend to ski cautiously. We've seen what can go wrong.
FIND HIM AT COSTCO: Stone also engineered Joint Juice, a joint-lubricating beverage sold at wholesale groceries nationwide. ("It works well with vodka after a long ski day.)
FOR MORE INFO: stoneclinic.com