Dr. Rick Cunningham

Dr. Rick Cunningham

Speciality: ACL Reconstruction, sports injuries to knee and shoulder, partial and total knee replacement, Orthopedic Trauma
Assistant: Matt Cain, PA-C

Some of the latest breakthroughs in orthopedics 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 CunninghamDr. 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.

    US Ski Team Physician

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. Sometimes he’ll use a cadaver graft, sometimes a hamstring graft, and often a combination of two graft strands instead of one, which is the so-called “double-bundle” ACL reconstruction that only a handful of surgeons have done.

Triple Bypass Ride

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. As for partial and total knee replacements, he does more of these than any other orthopedic surgeon in Eagle and Summit counties. Be sure to watch his video workshop on joint replacement.

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 the sport with his wife Diane and their children. Cycling and running are his passion in warmer months.

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  • Amherst College, 1988


  • University of Washington School of Medicine, 1997
  • Orthopedic Surgery Residency, University of Utah School of Medicine, 2002
  • Orthopedic Sports Medicine Fellowship, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 2003


  • Diplomate: American Board of Orthopedic Surgery, 2005



  • American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Fellow


  • Hamstring Tensioning in ACL Resonstruction
  • 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, 2009 - present
  • Head Team Physician, Freedom FC Semi-Pro Soccer Club

In The News

Dr. Cunningham's Patient Stories

Maggie Silvers
Procedure: IT band surgery
33 year old Maggie Silvers was on a run in October 2009 when she felt a sharp, burning pain everytime she bent her knee. Learn More
Laura Landre-Girten
Procedure: Meniscus repair
Being an athlete my whole life, I felt pretty lucky that up until now I had not sustained a major injury that required surgery. Learn More
Taylor Seaton
Procedure: Torn meniscus repair
Skiing nearly 300 days a year as a 21 year old professional freestyle skier, Taylor Seaton has been through some tough skiing related injuries. Learn More
Jaime Brede
Procedure: Torn hamstring repair
I was horsing around with friends on the Fourth of July, when I performed a most ill-fated dance move not to be attempted by anything other than accomplished gymnasts, yogis, and the like. Learn More
Kym Rock
Procedure: Knee replacement surgery
Twenty-two broken bones, three concussions, three knee surgeries, a left rotator cuff surgery, two neck surgeries, plates with screws and a piece of my hip included. Learn More
Joe Schmitt
Procedure: Full Knee replacement
Vail Resorts Nordic Ski School Director reports another successful full knee replacement out having fun in the Backcountry. Learn More
Dave Zrubek
Procedure: ACL and medial meniscus repair
On Christmas Eve of 2009 I tore my ACL and damaged my medial meniscus while skiing at Vail. Learn More
Jeanne Nedrelow
Procedure: Knee replacement surgery
After living in Vail for 36 years and having an active lifestyle, Jeanne Nedrelow’s knee slowly started deteriorating. Learn More
Matt Norfleet
Procedure: Reconstructive knee surgery
In the summer of 2009, Matt Norfleet was guiding a group of whitewater rafters down a particularly treacherous stretch of the Colorado River's Gore Canyon called Tunnel Falls. Learn More
Greg Abernathy
Procedure: Knee replacement surgery
Greg Abernathy was told he needed a new knee 15 years ago. Learn More
Judd Santry
Procedure: Double bundle ACL reconstruction
Judd Santry says at first he didn't think much of it when his ski tips crossed and he went down. Learn More
Bill Suarez
Procedure: Total knee replacement
Having been a ski instructor for 30 years, Bill Suarez is no stranger to knee injury and knee pain. Learn More
Bethany McGee
Procedure: ACL Repair
At first, Bethany McGee thought she was fine after being hit by an out-of-control skier at Beaver Creek ski area. Learn More

Dr. Cunningham's Videos

Meniscus Repair with Dr. Rick Cunningham | VSOrtho

Meniscus Repair with Dr. Rick Cunningham

Meniscus Repair with Dr. Rick Cunningham of Vail Summit Orthopaedics.

Posted on Aug 22nd, 2014

Articular Cartilage Replacement with Dr. Rick Cunningham | VSOrtho

Articular Cartilage Replacement with Dr. Rick Cunningham

Articular Cartilage Replacement with Dr. Rick Cunningham of Vail Summit Orthopaedics.

Posted on Aug 22nd, 2014

ACL Repair with Dr. Rick Cunningham | VSOrtho

ACL Repair with Dr. Rick Cunningham

ACL Repair with Dr. Rick Cunningham of Vail Summit Orthopaedics.

Posted on Aug 22nd, 2014

Dr. Rick Cunningham in the Leadville 100 | VSOrtho

Dr. Rick Cunningham in the Leadville 100

Dr. Rick Cunningham completes the challenging the Leadville 100 Bike Race.

Posted on Aug 22nd, 2014