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Getting Back in the Game

An exciting new treatment for ACL tears

A common sports injury is tearing the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). Since it’s one the key ligaments that help stabilize the knee joint, these tears can be extremely debilitating. Over the last 30 years, treatment has relatively stayed the same - until now.

“The goal of this newer procedure is to repair the ACL rather than reconstruct it,” says Dr. Louis Rizio, an orthopedic sports-medicine physician. “The hope is to save your ACL  by combining sutures (stitches) and collagen implant to enhance healing. This is drastic change in ACL management.”

He believes he was the first doctor to perform this surgery in Northern Jersey since it was approved by the FDA about a year ago. The implant is first soaked in the patient's blood for a few minutes with the idea that this will create growth factors. He says early data shows that muscle strength and recovery may be faster with this technique. “The rehab is a little bit slower in the first four weeks because we're trying to protect the implant, but trauma from the surgical procedure is less because the procedure’s less invasive.”

Dr. Rizio adds, “It can also be used for young patients, which is huge. Pediatric patients are suffering a lot more ACL tears because there are a lot of kids playing sports at higher frequencies and at higher levels. The traditional techniques of reconstructing an ACL could potentially damage their growth plate. With this procedure, that’s less likely, and also gives a younger person an opportunity to keep their ACL rather than taking a graft from one of their other tendons to reconstruct the ligament.”

There’s also no age limit. The only restriction with the implant is the timing of the surgery. The FDA, he says, has not approved it for tears older than 30 to 50 days.

Dr. Rizzo has worked with some elite athletes over the years. “After my orthopedic residency, I did a year of fellowship specifically in sports medicine, and during that time I worked with many professional teams, including the Miami Dolphins, the Florida Marlins, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I was also the point person for the entire University of Miami athletic programs.”

After his fellowship, he returned to New Jersey and became the head of sports medicine for the department of orthopedics at Rutgers Medical School (his alma mater) and is the head team physician for NJIT and Kean University.

He’s also affiliated with RWJBarnabas health. “We're building a multi-specialty, high-level orthopedic practice at Saint Barnabas,” says Dr. Rizio. “We're accruing different specialists in different areas, and we're now open and seeing patients.”

To learn more about him, go to

  • BEAR Implant
  • Dr. Louis Rizio