Deirdra Milord had only been playing competitive soccer for a year when she was sidelined with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, a medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear and a fractured knee cap. The injuries occurred during a game when her foot got stuck in a hole on the field and, while it was a lot for a 15-year-old high school sophomore to handle at the time, Deirdra was willing to go the extra mile to return to the field in hopes of eventually playing at a college level.
We spoke with Deirdra and Dr. Sean Keyes, her pediatric orthopedic surgeon at AdventHealth in Orlando, about her surgery, rehab and return to playing the sport she loves.
Q: How did you tear your ACL?
Deirdra: I tore my ACL playing soccer against a rival team. There was a hole in the field, and my foot got stuck. I twisted my knee, and I heard the pop but didn’t assume I’d torn my ACL because my trainer didn’t seem concerned. My primary care physician wanted me to see the orthopedist who then sent me for an MRI, and that’s when I was told my MCL was shredded, my ACL was torn and my kneecap was fractured.
Q. Were you experiencing pain right after your injury? Were you concerned about whether you’d be able to play sports again?
Deirdra: I was definitely in pain. I couldn’t walk for about a week afterward. My biggest fear was not playing again because playing sports is my favorite thing to do, and I want to play in college. I was worried because I know that some people who have torn their ACL have not been able to fully return to the sport they love—or sports in general—and I didn’t want that to be me.
Q: How did you learn about the BEAR Implant? What made you decide it was the right choice for you?
Deirdra: Dr. Keyes shared a number of possible treatments, including the BEAR Implant and various grafting options. My mom asked him what he would choose if it was his daughter, and he said he’d choose the BEAR Implant. He said it would give me the best chance at playing the sports I love. He also explained the details of the surgery and that made me feel better and a lot less nervous.
After we met with Dr. Keyes, my family and I researched the BEAR Implant ourselves and everything we read indicated that it was a good option to return to sports, so that was a major contributing factor.
Q: Why was Deirdra a good candidate for the BEAR Implant?
Dr. Keyes: Deirdra was a good candidate because, first of all, she met the surgical criteria but, beyond that, she was young, healthy, motivated and excited at the opportunity to heal her damaged ACL.
Q: Can you tell us about your rehab experience?
Deirdra: Rehab was actually harder than I thought it would be. Everyone told me it was a major ligament and joint issue and that it would involve a long recovery, but I didn’t really believe it. I’m a teenager and just thought, “Whatever, it’s fine, I’ll handle it.” But it was hard—not just the physical aspect, but the emotional part too. It was difficult when I realized I couldn’t do everything my friends were doing because I was on crutches or wearing a knee brace.
During recovery, I went to physical therapy two to three times per week. I felt like I turned a corner about three to four months after surgery. That’s when I felt like I was making some progress. I remember because summer was starting, and I was able to do more.
Q: Can you tell us about your return to sport experience?
Deirdra: Before I could return to playing, I completed return to sport testing twice. The first time was a few months after surgery to gauge where I was at with movement. That’s also when I was able to walk without a brace. Then I tested again about nine months after surgery to make sure I was good with the side-to-side movement and putting stress on my ACL. I do still wear a knee brace during practices, but not games, and my doctor just advised me to be careful.
I was very nervous when I finally returned to the field because I didn’t want to get injured again. And I was worried that I might not be good enough anymore. But now I trust my knee to not let me down. The injury was on my dominant foot side and I’m still working on mobility, but I’m not that nervous anymore.
Once I stepped back on the field for team tryouts, it was like déjà vu. I couldn’t believe I was playing again. I felt great when I made the team and I think that had a lot to do with the BEAR Implant. I have a friend on another team who also tore her ACL but didn’t get the BEAR Implant. We had our respective surgeries around the same time, but I was able to return to sport a lot sooner than she did. I think I also recovered a little faster than she did.
Q. Did you have a specific goal for your return to sport?
Deirdra: I wanted to be better than where I was when I got injured. I wanted a great comeback story and to be better than ever and at the top of my game. My advice to others getting the BEAR Implant is to follow the rehab protocol to hit your benchmarks so you can get back to the sport you love as quickly as possible. This school year, I’ve been able to return to playing J.V. and varsity soccer at my school, and I’m continuing to build my strength and mobility. I look forward to the potential of playing competitively in college in a couple more years.
Q. Has your decision to get the BEAR Implant changed your life or impacted your daily life in any way?
Deirdra: After my injury and before I got the BEAR Implant, I wasn’t able to do the things I normally do in daily life—including a lot of extracurricular activities. But I’ve been able to return to those activities since having the surgery.
Q. What did your family and friends think about you getting the BEAR Implant?
Deirdra: They didn’t have strong opinions initially because they weren’t familiar with the BEAR Implant. But they felt like I made the right choice after they saw the results.
Q: Why do you recommend the BEAR Implant to patients like Deirdra?
Dr. Keyes: There are so many factors that go into ACL surgery. Our job as sports surgeons is to help provide patients with guidance along the way and help them choose the best option for them and their long-term goals. The BEAR Implant was a great option for Deirdra, and other athletes like her, because healing the ACL will allow the knee to function in a more normal manner, hopefully preventing any long-term damage that can occur.
Another good reason is, as the research shows, the rate of ACL reinjury in young athletes can be as high as 20 percent. The BEAR Implant provides a new option on the front end, but if these young athletes get hurt again, they still have all the standard surgical options available. So, they have burned no bridges.
Q: What, in your opinion, is most notable about the BEAR Implant?
Dr. Keyes: The BEAR Implant is a big deal for young athletes because it provides them with a new option for surgical management of their ACL, which allows them the opportunity to heal their own tissue and not be subject to the problems associated with having a graft harvest.
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-1104 Rev A 08/2023