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Richard B. Cunningham, M.D.

Verified Patient Rating: 4.85 (40 patient reviews and ratings)
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Joint Replacement, Knee, Orthopaedic Trauma, Shoulder, Sports Medicine

Some of the latest breakthroughs in orthopaedics have come from questioning the very things that are questioned the least: like where to attach ACL grafts. Until recently, it was considered standard protocol to attach ACL grafts in the same place for all patients regardless of where the patient’s original ACL attachment may have been. Understanding that a 125-pound ballerina has very different anatomy from a 285-pound football player, Dr. Cunnningham followed the research on ACL grafts very closely. Dr. Cunningham now ascribes to the practice of attaching grafts at their original insertion points where the reproduction of native attachments ensures a better outcome.

Dr. Cunningham is a full-service knee and shoulder specialist with particular expertise in ACL reconstruction, partial and total knee replacements, and cartilage restoration surgery. He completed an optional knee and shoulder fellowship in sports medicine, knee surgery, and shoulder surgery. A fellowship has been likened to gaining 10 years of clinical experience in a given subspecialty over one intense year.

When asked what makes for a good orthopaedist, Dr. Cunningham believes it requires skillful hands for surgery, good clinical judgment, and being a good listener. The former is something you either have or you don’t, while the latter two take diligence and the ability to connect with patients on a personal level.  

Recognizing that no two patients are alike, Dr. Cunningham has mastered a wide variety of surgical procedures depending on the patient’s age, level of activity, and other variables. This is evidenced by Dr. Cunningham’s approach to ACL reconstruction. Depending on the patient's age and activity level, he will tend to use either a 5 stranded hamstring tendon graft or a quadriceps tendon graft. Quadriceps tendon grafts are currently being used by just a few high volume ACL surgeons across the country and the results are encouraging.

Dr. Cunningham is excited about the latest advancements in cartilage restoration, specifically using implants (cadaver and autologous chongrocyte implants) in those patients who have lost their meniscus or articular cartilage as a result of an injury and surgery. Be sure to watch his surgical videos on various knee and shoulder procedures at

Sports have always played a big part in Dr. Cunningham’s life. He spent his childhood weekends ski racing in upstate New York. Rick skied competitively through college and now enjoys skiing with his children. Road biking, mountain biking, and trail running are his passions in the warmer months.

Dr. Cunningham is a US Ski Team Physician. He has traveled to Chile for training camps with the Women's US Ski Team and also covers the US Ski Team at Copper Mountain during their preseason camps.

 Education & Training

  • Bachelor of Arts in English: Amherst College, Amherst, MA
  • Doctor of Medicine: University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA
  • General Surgery Internship: University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Orthopaedic Surgery Residency: University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Fellowship: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA


  • Board Certification: American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery

Professional Associations

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • Colorado Orthopaedic Society

Team Affiliations

  • US Ski Team
  • Vail Christian High School
  • Summit High School

Hospital Affiliations

  • Vail Valley Medical Center
  • Summit Medical Center
  • Vail Valley Surgery Center
  • Peak One Surgery Center


  • Hamstring Tensioning in ACL Reconstruction
  • Gait Analysis and Biomechanics of Unicompartmental Arthroplasty of the Knee
  • Fixation of Proximal Humerus Fractures
  • Book Chapter on Shoulder Biomechanics


  • Chief of Surgery, Vail Valley Medical Center
  • Team Physician, US Ski Team
  • Team Physician, Vail Christian High School
  • Team Physician, Vail Yeti’s Semi Pro Hockey Team

What to do about IT band tendonitis

Iliotibial band (IT) syndrome is a common cause of pain on the outside or lateral side of the knee. I see it commonly in my patients who are...

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What does a torn meniscus feel like?

What does a torn meniscus feel like?

Patients can either tear their medial (inside of the knee) or lateral (outside of the knee) meniscus...

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Turf versus grass field: is one safer than the other?

I recently had a mother ask me if her daughter was at greater risk of injury playing soccer on a turf field. The American Academy...

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Treatment options for a torn meniscus: Arthroscopic Menisectomy

In this post, I will discuss arthroscopic meniscectory, one of the treatment options for a torn meniscus. Unlike bone or muscle, meniscus...

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Tips from Dr. Cunningham on TV8

Dr. Cunningham gives biking tips on TV8 Interview with...

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Repairing a torn hamstring tendon

A strained hamstring is more common for athletes than a torn hamstring, but tears can still occur with certain sports such as water skiing. When a...

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Options for repairing a meniscus tear

Vail-Summit Orthopaedics serves one of the most active sports populations in the world and with that comes a high number of meniscus injuries....

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New treatments for worn out articular cartilage

Active sports enthusiasts often face the challenge of worn out articular cartilage in major joints such as the knee and shoulder. Replacing worn...

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Meniscus Transplantation

In regards to available treatment options for meniscus tears, here are my thoughts on meniscus transplantation.

Just as we transplant...

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Meniscus Tears: Arthroscopic Meniscal Repair

Continuing our look at meniscus tears and the available treatment options, today I will focus on arthroscopic meniscal repair:


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Vail-Summit Orthopaedics’ Doctors Featured on Becker’

All of our doctors were recently featured in Becker’s “Orthopedic Specialist to Know” section. 

To read...

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Vail doc talks about how to fix a torn meniscus

In his regular "Ask a Sports Medicine Doc" column that runs in the Vail Daily News and the Summit Daily News, Dr. Rick Cunningham looks at...

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“Dr. Cunningham has been great since day 1.”
– Itzayana P.
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