Darren Johnson, MD, is a nationally recognized physician in the field of sports medicine, particularly in complex knee surgery, and has spent the past 25 years caring for orthopaedic patients at UK HealthCare.
Johnson received his bachelor’s degree from the combined University of California, Riverside and University of California, Los Angeles program in biomedical sciences before earning his medical degree from UCLA. After his orthopaedic residency at the University of Southern California, he completed a fellowship in sports medicine and shoulder surgery at the University of Pittsburgh under Dr. Freddie H. Fu.
He joined the UK faculty in 1993 and served as the chair of UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine from 2000 to 2018. In addition to his role as a professor, Johnson is also the head orthopaedic surgeon of UK Athletics.
The prevention and treatment of ACL injuries in athletes is one of Johnson’s primary interests. He also enjoys teaching other surgeons, so he travels to national and international meetings as an invited guest speaker on knee injuries.
Johnson has served on the board of directors of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and he was the former president of Southern Orthopedic Association.
He has published more than 100 peer reviewed manuscripts as well as more than 30 book chapters and has edited two textbooks: Clinical Sports Medicine and Reconstructive Knee Surgery.
His outside interests include outdoor activities, particularly fly fishing, hunting, skiing and golf. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Nancy, and their three children.
In sports medicine we see a lot of high school and college kids who have an injury, and for the patient, it's like the end of the world. What’s going through their mind is, "I'll never be able to get back on the field.” We see them at their lowest point, we operate on them and go through the rehab process. When that player goes back on the field and back to doing what they love to do, you can't beat it. This is not a job to me. This is my calling.
- Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery
- fixes empty view field issueDarren Johnson, MD - UK HealthCare
- Awards & Recognitions
Best Doctors in America
The Best Doctors in America is an online resource developed by Best Doctors, Inc. Nationally, only about 5 percent of physicians qualify for this recognition, which is based on impartial peer review. The experts who are part of the Best Doctors in America database provide the most advanced medical expertise and knowledge to patients with serious conditions – often saving lives in the process by finding the right diagnosis and right treatment.
Learn more at the Best Doctors website »
16 Standout North American Sports Knee Surgeons
In 2016, Dr. Johnson was ranked as one of the “16 Standout North American Sports Knee Surgeons” by the publication Orthopedics This Week.
- Patient Stories
During practice in her freshman year, University of Kentucky Gymnast, Mac Harman’s left leg locked and she snapped her PCL, tore her LCL, tore her meniscus and broke her tibia. Thanks to UK Gymnastics team doctor and UK HealthCare Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports medicine physician, Kimberly Kaiser, and surgeon Darren Johnson, Mac was able to return to competition.
The Unstoppable Coach Mitchell
Coach Matthew Mitchell is well known for his relentless energy—whether he’s coaching a game or dancing at Big Blue Madness. But when he injured both his knees in the span of eighteen months, Coach Mitchell turned to UK HealthCare Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine to help him regain that active life. “You don’t want those things to happen, but when they do happen, it's good to know that you have someone who's going to get you back in the game and get you back up going,” Coach Mitchell said. “I am active and feeling great now and have two healthy knees, and it's because of how well they've taken care of me.”
Runs in the Family
The Wells sisters, Alison, Amelia and Audrey have been athletes all their lives. Between them, they’ve undergone four ACL repairs by Dr. Darren Johnson. Today, all three girls agree that the thing they’re most looking forward to is getting back out on the field again.
“You never know when it’s your last down”
University of Kentucky quarterback, Terry Wilson remembers the exact moment he was injured. He said the stadium went quiet and his team mates were telling him they were praying for him. Terry’s road to recovery started with surgery performed by UK Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine and UK Football team physician, Darren Johnson, MD.
“Grow from it, learn from it, and come out better”
At the height of Arin Gilliland Wright’s college soccer career, she suffered an athlete’s worst nightmare. While playing for the University of Kentucky, Arin tore her ACL, putting her dream of playing professional soccer in jeopardy. She turned to Dr. Darren Johnson and the team at UK HealthCare’s Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine. Arin’s determination helped her get through surgery and months of grueling physical therapy, becoming UK’s first player drafted to the National Women’s Soccer League.
No excuses. Go get it taken care of.
Gil Bagang has been playing volleyball for years. After growing up playing tennis, he got involved with a recreational volleyball league with some friends when he was a teenager. He fell in love with the game, eventually playing at a national level. All that came crashing down when he ruptured his ACL in 2015.
For some football players, one shoulder injury can be career-ending—much less two at the same time. But after he tore both labrums, Jacob refused to give up. He underwent back-to-back surgeries with the team at UK HealthCare’s Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine, then overcame the odds to play two more seasons at UK and nine seasons in the NFL. Even in his post-NFL life, he’s putting his shoulders to the test as a cattle farmer—and they’ve stayed strong through it all.
They are the best. My knee is a testament to it.
Just weeks after his latest surgery, Peter Gray, an athlete–turned–athletic trainer, was in the process of recovering from his third—and hopefully last—ACL reconstruction. As part of UK HealthCare’s Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine team, the choice of where to go for his surgery was an easy one: ACL expert Dr. Darren Johnson, with post-op care from UK HealthCare’s team of physical therapists.
From Injured Athlete to Athletic Trainer.
That scenario is one that Peter Gray knows intimately. He knows what it’s like to have a major injury just as you’re getting ready to take the next step. He knows what it’s like to go through ACL surgery, followed by months of rehab. He knows all of that because he’s done it. A high school athlete himself, he was sidelined with two ACL injuries that ended his athletic career.
“My goal was to walk by the wedding”
While on the job, Caleb was charged by a bull which demolished his knee. He was rushed to the hospital where it was discovered the bull had torn open an artery in addition to tearing his ACL, PCL and LCL. Caleb underwent multiple surgeries had to learn to walk again. Yet, he couldn’t stop thinking about his wedding day and how he wanted to be able to walk on that special day.
Training & Education
Certifications and Special Training
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