Why the NFL Players Association Is Investing in Biotech
The association is participating in a funding round for a startup company that has created an innovative solution for one of the most infamous injuries on the football field and beyond: the torn ACL.
The NFL Players Association is making a major investment in a medical startup this week. And it’s because the startup’s big solution targets an infamous pain point for many athletes.
Moving out of stealth mode with $22.5 million in Series A funding from NFLPA and other organizations, MIACH Orthopaedics Inc. is developing a bioengineering approach to healing torn anterior cruciate ligaments, or ACLs. Torn ACLs are a well-known knee injury and were once all but guaranteed to end a professional athlete’s career. Even today, ACL injuries can do long-term damage to an athlete’s performance on the field.
ACLs generally cannot heal by themselves, and the rehabilitation process is often arduous. MIACH’s solution uses a sponge that includes the patient’s blood cells both to act as scaffolding for the knee and to encourage healing of the ligament. The process, called bridge-enhanced ACL repair (BEAR), was developed by orthopedic surgeon Martha Murray as part of a research initiative at Harvard University that NFLPA supported, according to the Boston Business Journal.
According to a news release, the method has been tested successfully in nearly 100 patients at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We look forward to accelerating clinical trials to further evaluate the less-invasive BEAR technology as a viable alternative to ACL reconstruction,” Murray said in the release.
The investment reflects a recent push into tech investments by the NFLPA and players associations in other leagues. But the BEAR technique could be helpful beyond the sports field: About 400,000 Americans suffer from ACL injuries each year. Although the injuries have a higher profile among male athletes (many occur during televised games), they are more common among women, according to National Institutes of Health research.
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