Becky Contreras sometimes forgets she had knee surgery less than a year ago. After experiencing a tear to her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus while playing Division I soccer, the college junior has been recovering and rebuilding her strength after receiving the BEAR Implant to treat the ACL tear. Becky, who was recently cleared to return to full-contact soccer, is still wearing a brace but says “my knee feels so great that I sometimes forget which leg to put the brace on.”
We spoke with Becky and Dr. Jessica C. Bilotta, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon trained in sports medicine at Pinnacle Orthopaedics, who not only treated Becky’s torn ACL but was also the team physician for Becky’s soccer team during her time playing at Kennesaw State University.
Q: How did you tear your ACL?
Becky: Honestly, I’m not 100% sure. I had been wearing a brace because I’d already had one injury. One day I was playing a pick-up game without the brace and I hyperextended my knee. I heard it pop twice and then I couldn’t walk and was in terrible pain. My knee was so swollen that the MRI didn’t initially show the tears.
Q: How did you learn about the BEAR Implant?
Becky: I heard about the BEAR Implant from Dr. Bilotta since she was our team physician. I ended up being one of the first patients she treated with the implant. It seemed interesting and like a good option. I’ve seen friends suffer from regular ACL repairs. Ultimately, I was told that the choice was mine, and I chose the BEAR Implant.
Q: Why was Becky a good candidate for the BEAR Implant?
Dr. Bilotta: Becky was a high-level collegiate soccer player who did not want to use her own tissue as part of a typical ACL reconstruction. She was open to exploring a new option that could potentially lead to a better outcome.
Q: Why do you recommend the BEAR Implant for your athletes?
Dr. Bilotta: I recommend the BEAR Implant for athletes because they can use their own tissue to grow their own ACL back with less pain and, in my experience, less medication, while still returning to sport in the same 9-month recovery time as traditional ACL reconstruction. I’ve also heard anecdotally from my athletes that their knee with the BEAR Implant feels just as strong after they have finished rehabilitation and returned to sport. Even our physical therapists were pleasantly surprised at the minimal quad atrophy that needed to be corrected post-op. On average, we have also noticed that post operation pain is less compared to traditional ACL reconstruction typically leading to atrophy. In my experience, this procedure significantly leads to less narcotic medication use as well. It’s exciting to have another option in our repertoire to be able to fix ACL tears and then get our athletes back to high-level sport.
Q. Becky, tell us about your rehab experience.
Becky: I had physical therapy twice a week initially and when I didn’t have PT, I worked with my college trainer to gain strength and flexibility. Later, when I got closer to returning to soccer, my PT was once a week and I worked with the team trainer three times a week until I was cleared, which was about 9 months later.
The first two to three months were the hardest. It was hard to stay positive. But it improved once I was able to bear weight and start some movement. Luckily, my muscle grew back pretty quickly, and I think that’s because I went to physical therapy regularly and also worked with my trainer.
Q: Can you tell us about returning to soccer?
Becky: There was a progression of activity before I was cleared for playing full-contact again: first running and running drills, then playing no-contact soccer during practices. Once I was healed—which was confirmed with an MRI—I was cleared to play but I did feel a little apprehensive because I didn’t want to get hurt again. But I knew, at that point it was a mental game. I was worried I wouldn’t be as good as I was before and I thought about that a lot. But I realized that I’m not the only athlete who has experienced and recovered from an ACL tear and I reminded myself that Dr. Bilotta said I was progressing very well. She even called me her superstar!
Athletes typically say they feel different after an ACL surgery, but I feel like I am the same player today. In fact, I sometimes forget which knee had the BEAR Implant because it feels even stronger in some ways than my non-injured knee.
Dr. Bilotta: Becky was a total rock star. She went above and beyond what we asked of her but didn’t overdo it during rehab. This allowed her knee to fully recover and now she’s getting ready and training in preparation for her next soccer season.
Q: What are your plans for the future, Becky?
Becky: Since I have two more years of eligibility, I decided I was ready for a change and have transferred to Auburn University, where I’m working toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I then plan to study for my master’s. I’m looking forward to playing with the Auburn team this fall. I’m looking forward to playing in a tougher conference.
I’ve been lucky to have a lot of support from my surgeon, physical therapists and trainers. And my teammates have also been great. I’m lucky to have so many resources around me. I’m just really happy that I feel good and get to play again.
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.
ML-1080 Rev A 2/2023