Under The Sun

Sunday, May 16, 2004

"So turning her back on traditional medicine, Milton-Jones was relying on the Austrian physician, Dr. Mohammad Khalifa, and his "knee tissue manipulation," which is believed to stimulate re-growth of the tissue in a non-invasive procedure. Khalifa told Milton-Jones his hands are so sensitive that he can feel the nerve endings in the body, and by rubbing his thumbs in a circular motion on the front of Milton-Jones' knee, Khalifa believes he stimulates those nerve endings to help encourage the body's natural healing process.

"Milton-Jones, who has started for the Los Angeles Sparks for the past five seasons, wanted desperately to believe. The WNBA season was just around the corner, and the Olympics were a mere six months away. Surgery would surely put both in jeopardy, so Khalifa and the two 90-minute sessions a week he required were certainly worth taking a chance on.

"If only those thumbs would stop digging. And then, they did.

""Stand up," Khalifa said.

"Milton-Jones grabbed for her crutches, but Khalifa shook his head. Then he asked the unthinkable: "Jog in place."

"So Milton-Jones took a tentative step. Quickly, she realized the knee felt stable, almost normal. And pretty soon, Khalifa had her jumping off the injured knee as if going for a layup, then doing defensive slides -- completely pain-free.

""How does it feel?" he asked. The knee felt good, but Khalifa wasn't satisfied.

""We do not want 'good,' " he said. "We want perfect."

"Khalifa then went to work rubbing the back of Milton-Jones' knee. And when he was done and had her go through the same drills, the knee, in fact, felt perfect. She had good range of motion, and the swelling was minimal.

""It was a miracle," Milton-Jones said recently when recounting the experience during a phone interview.

"How else can you describe her recovery? Although two MRIs -- one by USA Basketball shortly after the initial injury and a second test five weeks later by the L.A. Sparks -- indicated a complete tear of the ACL in her right knee, Milton-Jones' latest MRI shows scar tissue but no tear."

Emphasis in the original.

Something happened here, and we have no idea what. (We'd have a slightly better idea if the writer, Nancy Lieberman, were a competent journalist rather than a former basketball star--"two 90-minute sessions a week" is not instantaneous healing.) Perhaps--probably--even Dr. Khalifa doesn't correctly understand how or why his treatment really works. Perhaps it doesn't work at all. But we have more than hearsay evidence that an ACL was torn and isn't anymore. If I were a research physician, I would set up an MRI machine in Dr. Khalifa's clinic and take daily MRIs of as many of his patients as possible. This is not a miracle; it's medicine. We can, and must, understand why and how it works.

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