STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) — A Colorado knee surgeon responsible for keeping professional skiers and snowboarders healthy is now the first in Colorado to perform a new treatment for serious knee injuries. 

Dr. Alexander Meininger is an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at Steamboat Orthopedic and Spine Institute in Steamboat Springs. He is also a team doctor with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

“Skiing is a demanding sport and especially those who are beginners, they might be more prone to injury or those pushing their limits,” he said. 

However, he still sees patients from all activity and skill levels. 

“ACLs are among the most common injuries that orthopedic surgeons nationwide take care of. Upwards of 400,000 annually,” Meininger said.

In December, Steamboat Springs resident Angela Sherwood became part of those statistics. 

“I was skiing with my oldest, who is 5-and-a-half,” Sherwood said. “I was kind of skiing down with him in between my skis and it was just kind of a freak thing and we fell, and he fell on my knee and I heard and felt a big pop.”

She tore her ACL and went to Meininger for help. 

In December 2021, he began performing the “BEAR” surgery, which is short for bridge-enhanced anterior cruciate ligament repair. The updated procedure replaced traditional ACL reconstruction surgeries that have been standard for decades.

“Reconstruction is the medical term to replace a torn ligament with another piece of tissue, what’s called a graft. The graft needs to be harvested from another part of the patient’s body,” Meininger said. 

BEAR repairs the patient’s original ACL that has been damaged. 

“I think the advantage of the BEAR procedure is to avoid taking that tissue graft so no extra incisions are required. None of the intact natural tissues need to be interrupted or harvested to perform this surgery,” Dr. Meininger said. 

In the short term, he said recovery is more delicate and can take longer for patients to heal. However, he calls the long-term benefits a game-changer. 

“One of the problems with routine ACL reconstruction is that the long-term outcomes, patients may still develop arthritis or damage to the joint because they had ACL surgery. The goal of BEAR and restoring the natural anatomy is that we allow the body to heal itself and maybe prevent some of these degenerative changes and over-tightening that ACL reconstruction may be associated with,” Meininger said. 

The advancements in long-term recovery are the primary reason Sherwood said she chose to have the BEAR procedure on her knee. 

“Being such an active person, that was really important to me,” she said.