April Kimball is a 34-year-old mother of three who tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) skiing. As an avid participant and instructor for Zumba, a dance fitness program with Latin dance and beats, she was committed to returning to the activity she loved and sharing her passion with others. During her research on alternative options to ACL reconstruction (ACLR), she found the BEAR® Implant.
We connected with April and her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Alex Meininger of Steamboat Orthopaedic and Spine Institute in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, about why she selected the BEAR Implant, how rehab went and her advice for others who have torn their ACL.
Q: How did you tear your ACL?
April: I tore my ACL after I lost my footing while trying to navigate a patch of icy snow while skiing. I heard a pop and was in immediate pain after I fell. The ski medics checked for swelling but couldn’t see what happened based on an x-ray. A week later, an MRI confirmed I had a complete ACL tear in my left knee. I was sad because I knew recovery from an ACL tear would take a long time, and I was wondering if I would ever be the same.
Q: How did you learn about the BEAR Implant? What made you decide it was the right choice for you?
April: At my local doctor’s suggestion, I initially planned on getting a quad tendon graft. Shortly after, someone told me about how stem cell technology could help shoulder injuries, and this sparked my interest to look into what other options aside from ACLR are available for knees.
Through my research, I stumbled upon the BEAR Implant videos on YouTube and was intrigued by how it could help me regrow rather than have to replace my ACL.
When I met Dr. Meininger, he gave me an overview on the benefits of the BEAR Implant. Since he was a skier, I asked him, “If you tore your ACL, would you get the BEAR Implant?” And he said, “Absolutely, in a heartbeat.” Based on our discussion, I thought it could be a more natural way to heal my ACL, and this solidified my decision to move forward.
Q: Why was April a good candidate for the BEAR Implant?
Dr. Meininger: April is a motivated and well-informed consumer who was eager to avoid potential aftereffects of graft harvest and was interested in alternatives to routine ACL reconstruction. Her MRI confirmed a full-thickness proximal femoral tear, which indicated she would be a good candidate for bridge-enhanced ACL restoration with the BEAR Implant.
Q: Can you tell us more about rehab?
April: I didn’t know what to expect because I had never had physical therapy before. I was nervous because my niece had ACLR the previous year and she told me her rehab was the most painful thing she had ever been through. I had a completely different and really positive rehab experience, and I didn’t need any pain medication after my first day post-op.
I really focused on taking my time to work through the exercises. Although I met every milestone in the protocol in terms of flexion and extension, I was especially cautious when putting weight on my knee because I knew my body was healing and regrowing my ACL. I didn’t want to overdo it and undo any of my hard work, but Dr. Meininger challenged me to push myself. Once I progressed to a certain point, I put all my faith in the protocol and felt very happy when I met my goals.
Dr. Meininger: April’s recovery was seamless. After she returned to her hometown, she was able to implement the BEAR Implant rehabilitation protocol with her local physical therapist. Communication was critical as was discussing expectations for her recovery. Virtual visit technology helped us follow up long-distance and keep abreast of her progress. She was diligent in complying with weightbearing and range of motion guidelines and progressed ahead of schedule. We were happy to support her successful recovery and excited to see how the BEAR Implant could help April to reach her goals.
Q: Can you tell us about your return to sport – Zumba and skiing in particular?
April: I was cleared to return to sport at nine months, and focused on exercising, lifting weights and practicing my Zumba dance routines before returning to teaching Zumba at one year. My left knee with the BEAR Implant felt really stable. After I finished teaching my first class back after BEAR Implant surgery, I felt so grateful and was elated that I could still do the things I love. I returned to skiing 11 months post-surgery and I was more worried about that compared to Zumba. I took it easy and only skied on green diamond runs with my kids. There’s a lot of pressure on your knees since you’re twisting and turning while skiing. Due to my nerves, I felt a little shakier, especially on turns, but my knee held up strong. I ended up going skiing twice that season.
Q: How has the BEAR Implant technology impacted how you treat ACL tears?
Dr. Meininger: The bridge-enhanced ACL restoration technology with the BEAR Implant has been added to my armamentarium of treatment options for patients with ACL tears. Now that my practice is approaching two years since performing our first BEAR Implant procedure, I have seen the successful clinical results possible with patients like April. There is a lot of enthusiasm out there from patients looking for less invasive means to heal their injuries. The objective physical findings of a stable knee on exam, positive MRI results with robust ACL healing and return to sports in high-level athletes help me have confidence that the BEAR Implant is the right operation for these patients.
Q: Do you have any advice for patients who have torn their ACL?
April: During my research for ACL tear treatment options, the ACL-BEAR-Surgery Rehab Community group on Facebook was a huge resource. It has grown tremendously since I joined, and the members in that group are so supportive. Many people who’ve had the BEAR Implant have shared their stories and are willing to answer questions to help others.
Q. Has your decision to get the BEAR Implant changed your life or impacted your daily life in any way?
April: Going through an ACL tear and recovery was a trying experience, especially when having to put my normal activity on hold while also juggling being a mom of three. I was really tempted to not have surgery and live with a torn ACL, but I knew I wanted to be able to return to the activities I loved. Completing the BEAR Implant rehab program really inspired my confidence and helped me to build back my strength. Although I still have the thought of not wanting to retear my ACL again, I feel really confident in my BEAR Implant knee.
Learn more about the BEAR Implant and find a surgeon
The BEAR Implant from Miach Orthopaedics was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December 2020. It is indicated for skeletally mature patients at least 14 years of age with a complete rupture of the ACL confirmed by MRI. Patients must have an ACL stump attached to the tibia to facilitate the restoration.
It is important to follow the BEAR Implant physical therapy program. Your surgeon can explain the program details.
Be sure to discuss your individual symptoms, diagnosis and treatment with your surgeon. The BEAR Implant has the same potential medical/surgical complications as other orthopedic surgical procedures, including ACL reconstruction. These include the risk of re-tear, infection, knee pain, meniscus injury and limited range of motion.
Visit www.miachortho.com for complete product information, including Instructions for Use.
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