BEAR Necessities Blog

BEAR® Implant Comeback Story:
Henry, Hockey & Lacrosse

Masthead photo of Henry LaVoie playing hockey

Henry LaVoie is an accomplished hockey and lacrosse player at just 14 years old. After tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) playing lacrosse, he sought out Dr. Marc Pietropaoli (Dr. P), orthopedic surgeon at Victory Sports Medicine & Orthopedics in Skaneateles, NY, to discuss his options to get back to competing and the two sports he loves. We spoke to Henry about his BEAR Implant experience, as well as Dr. P and rehabilitation coordinator Zach Kaplan about his recovery.

Q: How did you tear your ACL?

Henry: While playing during a lacrosse game, I twisted my knee, felt a pop and went down immediately. I had a split moment of pain and tried to stand up, but my knee gave out. A week later, Dr. P confirmed my ACL tear through an MRI. I had friends who tore their ACL the year prior, but other than that, I didn’t know much about ACL tears and I thought there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to return to playing sports at the level I was at. But, after doing more research, I knew playing sports again would be possible.

Q: How did you learn about the BEAR Implant? Why was it the right choice for you?

Henry: After meeting with Dr. P, he offered me three surgery options: ACL reconstruction (ACLR) from a cadaver, ACLR with my own hamstring or quad, or getting the BEAR Implant. Dr. P talked to us about the benefits of the BEAR Implant compared to ACLR. My parents and I chose the BEAR Implant because the idea of being able to regrow my own original ACL with the BEAR Implant made sense to us. I knew I was willing to work hard and get back to playing sports.

Q: Why was Henry a good candidate for the BEAR Implant?

Dr. P: Henry is a young, healthy athlete who wanted to get back to the sports he loves, hockey and lacrosse. Due to his age, he had open growth plates, so the BEAR Implant procedure was ideal for this. We drill a 2-3 mm “tunnel” for the sutures instead of a 10-11 mm tunnel for an ACLR, which is a lot more invasive and riskier around the growth plates. With the BEAR Implant, my femoral outside-in technique is ideal for patients like Henry who have open growth plates since we drill parallel to and not across the femoral growth plate. In addition, I can also avoid the tibial growth plate since I am drilling such a narrow tunnel to secure the cinch sutures.

Q: Can you tell us about rehab?

Henry: Before I got the BEAR Implant surgery, I did some pre-surgery physical therapy. I used bands and leg raises to get myself walking before surgery and compression sleeves to get the swelling down in my knee. When I started rehab, I found it tough at first because I had never really lifted weights before, so a lot of the exercises were new to me. I spent a lot of time working on having good form to get my muscles back. Mentally, it was also tough on me because my brother was still able to play sports while I was in rehab. I really missed playing with my team.

Dr. P: Following the BEAR Implant surgery, patients usually experience less pain due to no donor site morbidity (from the graft), and like Henry, they often experience a faster return of quad/thigh musculature tone, strength and function. With this in mind, we had to pull back the reins and really keep a close eye on him during rehab since he was willing and able to push the envelope more. The rehab is just as much, if not more, mental as it is physical, especially for younger patients.

Zach: During rehab, Henry felt really good early on – so much so that it was a battle with emotion and patience to not do too much too soon. Learning how to control his body was new to him, so we needed to start with the basics of proper form and function. Henry always came ready to get his reps in and never left without sweat on him. I give a ton of props to Henry’s parents as they were instrumental to ensuring he kept up with his exercises at home. A year is a long time for a 14-year-old to commit to rehab, and I was impressed with how he met his weekly and monthly goals.

Q: Can you tell us about your return to sport experience?

Henry: My two main sports are lacrosse and hockey. I’ve been playing hockey for four years and lacrosse for 10 years. After I was cleared to play sports again, my first game back was part of a hockey tournament in Danbury, Connecticut. I was a bit stressed going into it because I’m a defenseman and knew I would be playing against a really good team. I felt nervous in the locker room, but the closer I got to the ice, the more confident I felt. I scored five points during the tournament, three goals and two assists, and we placed first overall! I was proud of how fast I was skating, and it was one of those moments you see how far you’ve come. I was at the peak of my spirits and felt the happiest I’d ever been. Later in the season, I also got the opportunity to play in a hockey tournament at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid. It was really exciting because I scored a goal on the Herb Brooks Arena from the 1980 Miracle story!

Since returning to hockey, my BEAR Implant knee has felt perfectly fine and normal, all my preparation during rehab paid off. Knock on wood, I haven’t felt any pain while playing sports. I’m looking forward to getting back to lacrosse once the season starts this spring.

Q: How has the BEAR Implant technology impacted how you treat ACL tears?

Dr. P: I have been recommending the BEAR Implant as a first choice for every single patient I see who tears their ACL, regardless of their age or activity level. With ACLR, there’s a chance that the reconstructed ACL may not be in the ideal location or it may not have normal proprioceptive nerve fibers, cells and blood vessels. Clinical trials for the BEAR Implant showed there is less of a chance to tear the ACL in the opposite knee, and the same low failure rate and same return to sport timeframe as ACLR.

Q. What have you learned through this process?

Henry: My experience taught me to take every opportunity to work hard. It’s really important to do what the doctors and physical therapists tell you to do and to not cheat yourself during rehab. I’m more confident in my BEAR Implant knee than my other knee. Although my legs are well balanced, my BEAR Implant knee feels stronger, and I can rely on it more.

Q: What are some of your goals or plans for the future?

Henry: I really enjoy playing both hockey and lacrosse and I plan to go as far as I can with them and be as successful as I can. I would love to play either sport in college, or even in the pros someday.

Learn more about the BEAR Implant and find a surgeon

The BEAR Implant is available across the U.S. Learn more about the BEAR Implant or find a surgeon in your area. If you’re a BEAR Implant patient and would like to share your story, click here.

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.

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ML-1173 Rev A 3/2024