STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) — Over the past three years, several high-profile Denver athletes have torn their ACLs in practices and games from Nuggets guard Jamal Murray to Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick.
But experts on the surgery that will repair this tear and the treatment for recovery tell FOX31 that the recovery time has never been quicker for the typical sports injury that used to sideline athletes for seasons.
“Among one of the most common injuries nationwide,” said Dr. Alexander Meininger with UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “Upwards of 300,000 operations are performed annually.”
Meininger is also a founding partner at Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute. He said it can be a non-contact or contact injury across sports, or even when someone takes a misstep or slips on the trail.
“ACL tears generally don’t heal on their own,” Meininger said.
He explained how surgeons will rely on a graft, or a piece of tissue, that is installed as a bridge to replace the torn ligament.
Sometimes, that graft will come from your own body, but it can be used from a cadaver.
“Now the preference among sports medicine doctors is to pursue an accelerated rehab program. So ten or 20 years ago it may have been nine or 12 months to get our ACL patients back on the field, back to their high levels of activity, but now through the accelerated rehab, we can get weight-bearing to occur earlier,” Meininger said.
The expectation is, with high-level treatment, patients can get back to running within four months and add on twisting, pivoting or lateral movement within six months.
“One of the most exciting innovations just this year is what’s called the Bridge Enhanced ACL Restoration, or the BEAR procedure,” Meininger said.
Meininger was the first surgeon to perform the BEAR procedure in Colorado.
Meininger said thanks to the advancements in pro-athlete treatments and rehabilitation, that knowledge trickles down and has a positive impact on the recovery of casual skiers, hikers and more.
Meininger said strength training, improved balance, stretching, proper technique and warming up before exercises all can contribute to a healthy ACL.