Jenna Richardson is an avid mountain biker and surfer. After she tore her ACL while mountain biking, she set her eyes on getting the BEAR® Implant. Jenna was already familiar with the procedure while it was progressing through clinical trials and thought it would be a good option to help her get back to her active life.
We spoke with Jenna and her doctor, Dr. Tim Wang, an orthopedic surgeon at Scripps Clinic, about the first BEAR Implant procedure in San Diego County, California.
Q: How did you tear your ACL?
Jenna: I tore my ACL while on a mountain biking trip in Whistler. My bike flipped over on itself and my knee twisted behind me. I tried to stand up and felt immediate pain and was super wobbly. I initially went to an urgent care for an x-ray, and then an MRI five days later confirmed I had torn my ACL.
Q: How did you learn about the BEAR Implant and why was it the right option for you?
Jenna: While driving down the mountain after my bad fall, I was already looking into the BEAR Implant. I previously heard about the procedure from a friend’s doctor who was associated with the clinical trials. Dr. Wang was the only doctor trained on the surgery in my area.
I chose the BEAR Implant because, in my opinion, it seemed like it could be less painful and a little easier recovery-wise. I competitively snow skied in college, and many of my friends tore their ACL and had a lot of issues with quad and patellar tendon ACL surgeries. I thought that long-term it would be best to be able to regrow my own ACL and then if I re-tore it later on, I could look into traditional ACL surgery. During my research, I even reached out to Corey Peak, the first person to ever receive the BEAR Implant in 2015. The fact that he is still confident in his knee and can still ski today solidified my choice to get the BEAR Implant.
Q: How did Dr. Wang instill confidence in you for the BEAR Implant surgery?
Jenna: I felt confident in working with Dr. Wang given his credentials from Stanford and expertise in knee injuries. I was so determined that I did a lot of pre-surgery physical therapy and had good range of motion going into it. I was committed to getting back out there in my sports post-surgery and Dr. Wang made me feel included and a part of the team.
Q: Dr. Wang, tell us about your experience with Jenna as your first BEAR Implant surgical case.
Dr. Wang: In addition to being my first BEAR Implant surgery, Jenna was also the first patient to receive the BEAR Implant in San Diego County. We were very excited to lead the charge. I had followed the research for a number of years, and I felt the procedure would be safe. In terms of performing the surgery technically, it uses a lot of the same building blocks as traditional ACL surgery with some slight modifications. Prior to Jenna’s surgery, we practiced to ensure we were confident and would be successful.
Q: Why was Jenna a good candidate for the BEAR Implant?
Dr. Wang: Jenna was extremely motivated and understood the potential benefits and risks. With new procedures like this, it’s important to have commitment from the patient to follow through with the rigorous surgery and work that’s required during rehab.
Q. Tell us about the rehab experience.
Jenna: I was super dedicated to my rehab and went to physical therapy two to three times a week. I even took medical leave from work to focus on my recovery. My knee was stiff in the beginning, so I focused on how to start bending my knee. I really pushed myself while adhering to the PT guidelines.
I can’t stress enough the importance of taking time to research and find the right physical therapist. My physical therapist came to all of my doctor appointments and was committed to learning about the BEAR Implant and the differences between it and normal ACL surgery. This was crucial because I needed someone who was willing to learn alongside me and help create the best rehab program to meet my goals.
Dr. Wang: For Jenna, we were fortunate to partner with a physical therapist who was well versed in treatment of sports knee injuries and recovery. At her post-op visits, we had a collaborative discussion among us about how to progress through rehab and how to best optimize the program for her.
Q: Can you tell us about returning to sport, mountain biking in particular?
Jenna: I grew up in Salt Lake City, so I have been biking for almost my whole life and mountain biking for eight years. Before I was cleared to return to sport, I was really struggling with the mental aspect – especially since trying to sleep with my leg straight was awful. Once I was able to start biking on the Peloton, my mental health was way better. Physically I wanted to push myself, but I also knew I had limits to build up the muscles in my knee.
After I was cleared to return to sport, I decided to go mountain biking with my friends and family. I was a little hesitant and nervous in the beginning, especially on the downhill as that’s how I tore my ACL. I started off going slower but got past my fear quickly. After I finished that first ride, I had tears streaming down my face. Even though I’m not an emotional person, it was really an emotional experience being able to get back to doing the things I love. I have full confidence in my knee today. In fact, I recently competed in my first downhill focused race since the BEAR surgery and got second place!
In addition to mountain biking, I also love to surf. After my surgery, I really missed being out in the water and could only watch everyone else surf while my knee was in a brace. Returning to surfing has brought a lot of joy back to my life. I just got married in September and having kids is definitely on the horizon. I would love to be able to surf and mountain bike with them.
Q: What, in your opinion, is most notable about the BEAR Implant?
Dr. Wang: The BEAR Implant is unique because it is one of the first options we have to repair someone’s own ACL with predictably positive results. The primary benefit is not having to harvest someone’s own tissue for a reconstruction, allowing us to avoid some of the side effects and complications often associated with ACLR. I’ve been cautiously optimistic with how people have been doing with the BEAR Implant and have been impressed with their results. It has performed better than I anticipated so far, and I’m looking forward to tracking these patients’ progress.
Q: How has getting the BEAR Implant changed your life and what are your plans for the future?
Jenna: Since getting the BEAR Implant, I’ve basically forgotten I tore my ACL. I have no pain and my scars are pretty minimal. Recovering from tearing my ACL took a year of my life, but I’m doing really well compared to other friends who still have issues after getting traditional ACL surgery. With the BEAR Implant, I was able to quickly get my strength back and return to what I wanted to do without pain.
I know that my fall while mountain biking was a freak accident that wouldn’t normally happen. Having this thought in the back of my head gives me confidence because I know my knee is stable. It’s been fun being one of the first people to receive the BEAR Implant.
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-1078 Rev A 10/2023