BEAR implant could be game changer for injured athletes

by Liz Bonis & Megan Burgasser


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CINCINNATI (WKRC) – A new implant could be a game changer for thousands of athletes who are injured each year. It uses a person’s own body to aid in healing.


This newer type of implant is targeted for anterior cruciate ligament or ACL repairs, which is a common sports injury as one young athlete found out.


“I was playing soccer with just a bunch of adults, and I just got run over by the goalkeeper. One thing led to another. It popped, and this is where we ended up,” said Caitlyn Lakes, who was injured in August.


Luckily, where she ended up after tearing her ACL was with Dr. Trevor Wilkes.


He said Lakes was a good candidate for this newer implant, which provides bridge-enhanced ACL restoration, or BEAR.


“The BEAR implant is essentially a way to try to restore blood flow and get an ACL to heal without having to put in a graft or something new. So, it’s a collagen implant to help the ACL heal,” said Dr. Wilkes, an OrthoCincy orthopedic surgeon.


Here’s how it works:


Stitches are placed around the ACL tear to stabilize it. The protein implant is then positioned on the stitches, while a person’s own blood is drawn and then added to the collagen implant. The implant is then placed in the gap to start the healing. It provides a bridge, so the ligament can grow back together as a person’s own cells absorb it.


“The benefits of the procedure certainly are preserving your own tissue, we think there are some nerves and fibers in your own ACL that might be better than taking it from somewhere else, preventing the damage of having to take it from somewhere else and then potentially maybe arthritis in the future. That remains to be seen,” Dr. Wilkes said.


For Lakes, it’s already been a game changer. She’s not returning to the soccer field, but she is entering the medical field – and she’s anxious to begin.


“I’m hanging it up. I’m in nursing school. So, you got to pick which one’s more important, and my career is more important than my little sports time right now,” Lakes said.


Not all surgeons use the implant yet, so a person who has this kind of injury may need to ask his or her orthopedic specialist if it’s an option.