VAIL, Colo. (AP)Dr. J. Richard Steadman, an orthopedic surgeon who founded the renowned Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado, where many of the world’s elite athletes have gone for career-saving treatment, has died at age 85.

Steadman died in his sleep Friday at his home in Vail, said Lynda Sampson, vice president of external affairs at the Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

Steadman was a leading expert in the repair and rehabilitation of knee injuries. He popularized microfracture knee surgery, a technique used to repair cartilage by poking tiny holes near the defective area.

”Dr. Steadman was an incredible surgeon and leaves a remarkable legacy of innovation in the field of orthopedics and sports medicine,” Dr. Marc J. Philippon, managing partner of The Steadman Clinic and co-chair of the Steadman Philippon Research Institute, said in a statement. ”’Steady’ was a champion for his patients, a kind and dedicated physician with a healing touch.”

Dan Drawbaugh, CEO of The Steadman Clinic and SPRI, said Steadman’s ”techniques and treatments, quite literally, changed the entire landscape of orthopaedics and sports medicine. A true innovator, Steady revolutionized his field and provided a level of patient care that was unmatched and has inspired thousands of physicians in their approaches to medicine. He helped thousands of athletes and patients continue to live active and meaningful lives.”

Retired from active practice since 2014, Steadman was a graduate of Texas A&M University, where he played football for Paul ”Bear” Bryant. He earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.

Steadman began working with elite athletes as the team doctor for the U.S. alpine ski team, a position he held for nine Winter Olympics, starting with the Games in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1976.

He moved his practice from Lake Tahoe, California, to Vail in 1990 to expand his orthopedic research and began courting leading surgeons, among them Dr. Richard Hawkins, to join him in the Colorado ski town.

Among the elite Olympian and professional athletes who went to Steadman’s clinic for procedures were: Alex Rodriguez, Greg Norman, Mario Lemieux, Ronaldo, Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Davenport, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, John Elway, Bruce Smith, Bode Miller and Picabo Street.

NFL Hall of Famer Rod Woodson told The Associated Press in a 2009, ”I probably wouldn’t be in the Hall” without the treatment he received at Steadman’s clinic. ”I’m indebted.”

Steadman is survived by his wife, Gay Steadman, son Lyon Steadman, and daughter Liddy Lind.