BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Demetrius Bell
was looking forward to the team's first game of the 2009 regular
season, having spent his entire rookie season the year before on
the inactive roster.
Bell had earned the left tackle spot for the opener against the
New England Patriots, his first NFL career start. The Bills lost
25-24, but No. 77 went on to start in five more games that
It was during his sixth game -- the Bills' 41-17 loss to the
Tennessee Titans in November -- that Bell suffered a knee injury
that took him out of the game and off the playing field for nearly
Unable to improve with treatment over the next month, Bell
underwent cartilage transplant surgery on his right knee, performed
by John Marzo, MD, the Bills' medical director who joined the team
as an orthopedic surgeon in 1991. At 6'5" and over 300 pounds, the
26-year-old Northwestern State graduate faced a long rehabilitation
period that lasted through the spring and summer of 2010, up until
the start of the preseason, when, he recalled, "I just barely made
it back to camp."
His work paid off: Bell returned to the Bills lineup during the
second preseason game, and then started all 16 games during the
Bell credits Marzo -- a University of Buffalo associate
professor of orthopaedics -- with saving his career as a
professional football player.
"I feel great, I have recovered well and every day, I thank
him," said Bell, the starting left tackle for the Bills heading
into the regular season.
Bell said he and other Bills players hold Marzo, his fellow team
doctors and the team's athletic trainers in the highest regard.
"They are some of the best in the business," Bell said. "They do
a tremendous job diagnosing the players who have been injured. They
are always helping us out, visiting the training facility
Two other members of the Buffalo Bills organization join Bell in
his admiration for Marzo and his leadership of sports medicine
physicians for the Bills and at UB: owner Ralph Wilson Jr. and his
wife, Mary Wilson.
Through the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation, the Wilsons have given
$1 million to honor the Bills team physicians in the UB Department
of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, where they teach and train
five orthopaedic residents and two sports medicine fellows per
(To see video of the news conference announcing the Wilsons'
gift, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CB6EnG34EYU.)
Marzo said he and the other 24 members of the department are
"extremely grateful" to the Wilsons for the gift, which will enable
them to fund several priorities, including
-- buying an arthroscopy simulator and other equipment for the
-- hiring a sports medicine clinical research coordinator to
oversee major research studies;
-- supporting the Buffalo Bills Sports Medicine Symposium, which
brings visiting professors to the university twice per academic
year for lectures and workshops.
"This generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Wilson means the
difference between a good program and an exceptional one for our
sports medicine residents and fellows here at UB," Marzo said. "I
speak for the other team physicians and the entire orthopaedics and
sports medicine department when I say that this donation is
invaluable to our efforts."
The Wilsons gift means that Marzo and his Buffalo Bills and UB
faculty colleagues can continue a prospective clinical study of the
utility of chondroplasty in the knee, as well as carry out future
studies in the areas of concussion and biomechanics.
For athletes like Demetrius Bell, who has resumed his role as
the starting left tackle, that is good news.
"These UB doctors are so important to all athletes, on a daily
basis," Bell said. "Thanks to Dr. Marzo, I am recovered again and
feeling strong. The sky's the limit."
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, a flagship institution in the State University
of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests
through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional
degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a
member of the Association of American Universities.