Health Headlines: Less invasive ACL surgery getting athletes back in the game faster

Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 1:04 PM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Whether you’re a weekend warrior, play sports for fun, or are a pro athlete, tearing your ACL can sideline you for anywhere up to a year. With nearly 200,000 ACL reconstruction surgeries performed in the US each year, there’s now a less invasive treatment option that can get you back in the game faster than ever before.

That was the story with Jenna Richardson who, with every leg lift, is one step closer to getting back to the things she loves.

“About every other weekend when we can fly all over the world to ski. I love to surf and we travel all around the world for that, too.”

But it was the last run of the day on a mountain bike that stopped her in her tracks.

“I was riding down a big rock and the back of the bike kind of flew around to the front of the bike. My front tire got stuck and my knee went with it.”

It completely tore her ACL which is a band of tissue that runs through the center of your knee. In the past, orthopedic surgeon Tim Wang would need to build a new ACL from the tissue in the patient’s other healthy knee or from a cadaver. But now, a tiny implant is repairing ligaments from the inside out in just one procedure.

“This is one of the first times that we’re able to repair somebody’s own ACL and support it as it heals with a collagen sponge,” says Dr. Wang.

Through a tiny incision, surgeons stitch the ligaments together, then insert the bridge-enhanced ACL repair, or BEAR, implant between the torn ligaments.

Dr. Wang says, “It’s about the size of a marshmallow and we soak it and load it with the patient’s own blood and insert that into the knee through a small incision.”

The collagen helps to heal the gap between the two ends of the ruptured ligament. The patient’s body is then able to absorb the implant material within a few months.

Just a few weeks out from surgery, Jenna is hoping to lose her crutches soon and hopes to get back to doing what she loves.