BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — UAB’s Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine is offering a groundbreaking new procedure to repair a torn ACL.

The procedure reportedly helps patients recover more quickly and with less pain than a typical ACL repair surgery. It’s being called a game-changer for athletes in Alabama, especially as football season begins.

“[Patients have] said they’ve had less pain compared to other patients who’ve had traditional ACL reconstruction surgery, they’ve gotten back to their activity quicker,” said Dr. Amit Momaya, Chief of Sports Medicine of Orthopedic Surgery at UAB, who oversaw the procedure’s clinical trials over the last few years.

The surgery is called the Bridge-Enhanced ACL Repair — or “BEAR” — and it causes your body to repair its own ACL. UAB is the first site to offer it in the state.

Previously, physicians would have to replace a torn ACL with another tendon from a patient’s body or one from a cadaver donation. Now, physicians can use a special implant made of cow collagen and protein that’s injected with some of the patient’s own blood to soften the implant and encourage healing in the body.

“The actual implant looks like a large marshmallow, believe it or not, and it helps form a blood clot right where the ACL needs to heal. That blood clot slowly dissolves over the first six to eight weeks and eventually will not be in the knee, allowing the ACL to fully heal to itself,” Momaya said.

The FDA-approved surgery takes 45 minutes to an hour to perform, and within a few weeks, patients can go back to walking normally and performing daily duties. However, like a typical ACL surgery, it still takes about 9 months to go back to playing sports.

Momaya said they’ve been performing the procedure at UAB for the last six months with great success, and he hopes this helps athletes across the state and nation get back on their feet faster and back to doing what they love.

“We’re pushing the envelope and the frontier of sports medicine research,” Momaya said.