Medicine's Next Big Thing: Healing ACL Tears - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Medicine's Next Big Thing: Healing ACL Tears

ACL surgery takes a long time to recover from -- too long.  Especially when patients want to get back to their normal activities -- fast.

Now, a new breakthrough may soon get people back on their feet in no time.

Tony Riggs is a dad on the go. But just a few years ago, a torn knee ligament caused constant pain. Surgery was a success, but it kept him out of the game.

"It was anywhere between four and six months before I began to feel back to normal," said Riggs, an orthopedic surgery patient.

One day, people like Riggs could avoid surgery thanks to a breakthrough procedure to repair damaged knees.

No knife! Just a needle!

"The hope is that really we'll have a procedure that's less invasive for patients, much easier on them and they'll go on toward having a better knee for the rest of their life," said Dr. Martha Murray, an orthopedic surgeon at Children's Hospital Boston. "That's really our goal."

Researchers inject a collagen gel enriched with blood platelets into the tear. The gel gives cells something to crawl back into and heal the torn ligament.

"I think that if we can get that ACL to heal, that would really be a way of restoring a much more normal biomechanics of the knee itself," Murray said.

So far, it works in 75 percent of animals.

In the coming years, researchers want to soon move their studies into people.

And when they do, patients like Riggs could get back on their feet a lot faster.

The collagen gel will not be ready for human studies for at least several years.

They need to study the healing ligaments for a longer period of time before they can know the long term results.

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