British Alpine skier, Jai Geyer, is making amazing progress in rehabilitation this season, after having a revolutionary Internal Brace fitted into a second knee joint, at BMI Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow.
It was the second operation for Jai in less than 2 years after having his first knee treated in 2015. Both operations were carried out by Professor Gordon MacKay, inventor of the Internal Brace. It is the first time in the UK that an elite GB athlete has had the procedure done in both knees.
Jai, who has represented Britain in the European Cup in 2014, and returned from his first knee operation in 2015 to qualify for a place at next year’s World Championships, says: “My recovery is remarkable really. I’m nine weeks post op now* and working hard at the English Institute of Sport’s intensive rehabilitation unit, with six months still to go before I’m ready to ski again. Here, the staff see lots of athletes with all sorts of injuries but even they are surprised at how good the recovery from this procedure is, it really accelerates rehabilitation and progress towards getting back to competitive sport.”
The Internal Brace, invented by Professor MacKay, was first used in operations at BMI Ross Hall Hospital in 2011 and has since revolutionised tendon and ligament repairs. It is a much more efficient way of reconstructing tendons or ligaments than traditional procedures and is particularly popular with athletes because the affected area doesn’t need to be put into a cast, meaning patients can get back to activity more quickly.
Instead of taking an average of 16 to 24 weeks to recover full function in the joint after a conventional ligament/tendon reconstruction, the Internal Brace brings that time down to an average of 8 to 12 weeks. The brace can be used for knee, elbow and shoulder repairs and for other injuries such as dislocations and damage to the Achilles tendon.
Jai, 26, had his first operation in 2015, after he crashed whilst competing in the North American Cup in Canada. He was flown home to Torquay in Devon and then on to a consultation with Professor MacKay in which he discovered he had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.
Jai says: “I chose to see Professor MacKay at BMI Ross Hall Hospital because I’d read about the Internal Brace and Professor MacKay’s very different approach to ligament repairs. I really liked the idea of being up and about more quickly than the traditional procedures, and also the fact that the procedure doesn’t involve harvesting tissue from the joint. Effectively, the internal brace provides scaffolding for healing ligaments to grow onto.”
The Internal Brace is made up of a tiny bungee cord made from super-strong polymer which is attached to small screws inserted into the bones at each end of the ligament or tendon. The brace stabilises the joint, and allows the patient to begin light exercise within a week of the procedure.
While the patient gradually increases the intensity and duration of exercise, the ligament or tendon grows through the lattice-structure of the internal brace and quickly reattaches itself to the bone.
Jai’s second operation at BMI Ross Hall Hospital came about after an accident whilst training in Switzerland with the British Alpine Ski Team earlier this year, in which he injured his other knee. This time, the injury was more complex, as he had not only ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, but also damaged both collateral ligaments. Nevertheless, the same Internal Brace procedure was adequate to fix both injuries to the knee.
“I’m just so grateful to Professor MacKay and all the medical staff at Ross Hall, the care they’ve given me has been amazing. Without Professor MacKay’s incredible skills as a surgeon and the Internal Brace, I’d be looking at a substantially longer period of time away from competing in the sport I love.”
Professor MacKay has treated a growing number of professional competitive athletes using the Internal Brace procedure at BMI Ross Hall Hospital, which is rapidly becoming the ‘go to’ hospital for this kind of injury. These include skiers, footballers, netball players and even a dancer at the Royal Swedish Ballet. The procedure has also been picked up in the US and is increasingly being used to treat players in the NFL and NBA.
Professor Gordon MacKay said: “It has been a pleasure to help Jai recover from such serious ski injuries. The internal brace has combined with his hard work to allow him to make a full recovery.
“We all know that immobilisation causes wasting and pain. It is incredible to see how well patients can progress after injury, if stability can be restored immediately with the internal brace and mobilisation encouraged.
“It seems obvious that we should give injured ligaments a chance to heal before having to resort to traditional reconstruction with replacement tissue and the internal brace can now make this possible. Hopefully this will help to minimise the risk of arthritis.
“Although for the athlete the benefits are clear, the greatest impact is likely to be for average patients. Early mobilisation transforms the patient experience allowing early return to driving and work.
“Sadly the military and some soccer clubs will not accept young players after traditional ACL reconstruction. ACL repair with the internal brace can restore normal function completely without burning any bridges. This could save billions in the world of professional sport.”