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March 11, 2019
I’m a 17 year old alpine ski racer. I live for the speed and adrenaline rush of the sport. I’m always looking for ways to push myself on and off the slopes. As many ski racers know, with the speed comes great risk and possibility of injury. Skiing is all I have ever known and ever since my very first race practice I have never wanted to get off the slopes. I’ve never been afraid of the speed; in fact, I seek it out.
I’ve never had any injuries that really scared me. Growing up, it seemed like injuries happened. They’d heal and you would move on and forget about them soon after. Injuries didn’t phase me. Like when I broke my wrist, it was as simple as getting a waterproof cast so I could continue competing in triathlons.
I started to really ramp up my skiing at the end of the 2016-17 season and gained a considerable amount of momentum with my results. I received multiple scholarships that gave me opportunities to pursue my goals and take my skiing to the next level. I was racing Super G and Downhill at the Rocky Central Junior Championships in Vail where I was skiing 70 mph and over jumps, eventually finding out I was skiing with a broken wrist. I was at a point in my ski career where everything had been going right. I had tremendous opportunities and a lot of support which was a necessity to stay in this expensive sport.
In the fall of 2017, I attended a training camp at Vail Mountain on a scholarship. Toward the end of the camp, I fell training GS and broke my thumb and sustained a concussion. When I got back to Minnesota, I found out that I was going to need surgery to fix my thumb, which was done by Dr. McCarthy. It was my first surgery and the first injury that really phased me. I was forced to take a month off of skiing, which for me was a very difficult thought to come to terms with.
A month later, despite still having pins sticking out of my hand and the bulkiest cast I’ve ever seen, I was back on the slopes. I had to take it super easy but still enjoyed every second of it. My second day back skiing was the day after Christmas. It was at an alumni race for my high school ski team. I decided to forerun the course. The first run felt amazing, I couldn’t have been happier to be back skiing. I felt invincible as I stood in the starting gate, with no fear. I thought, 'if a broken thumb couldn’t stop me nothing would,’ and pushed out of the start gate another time. The next thing I knew I had crashed and was sliding down the hill on my side and tried to stand up as I was still sliding. My knee popped as I tried to come to a stop and my stomach instantly dropped. I got up but fell again as my knee must have given out. The second I started to fall I bounced back up and skied the rest of the way down on one ski. I smiled at the parents and coaches in the finish and pushed myself over to the chalet as if nothing happened.
It was a struggle getting out of my skis but I managed to get a friend, who wasn’t aware of what happened, to help me out. I used my poles to hobble to the comp center but fell to the ground when my knee gave out again. I hopped up the stairs on one leg and sat down. I was terrified. My friend began to suspect something was wrong - but I froze and refused to admit I had hurt my knee. I sat for what felt like hours bending my knee and convincing myself I was overreacting - and thinking the pop I heard I must have made up in my head. I decided I was perfectly fine to go back out to ski. I stood up and took about a step and a half before my knee gave out and I fell to the floor. I tried standing a couple more times that night and every time my knee would give out with even the very slightest pressure.
It was difficult calling my parents and admitting that I was hurt. I remember walking in my front door late that night and seeing my mom’s face which made everything start to sink in. The next morning I was being wheeled into TCO. It eased my mind talking to doctors and was headed off for an MRI then home on crutches. A day or two later I heard my mom’s phone ring. I was upstairs and could only make out a little bit of the conversation. After trying to figure out what my mom and the doctor were talking about my dad came to the bottom of the stairs and told me that I had a complete tear of my ACL. I was in total disbelief. The impact this would have on the next year of my life did not set in right away. After talking on the phone with the doctors I realized this was not an injury where I could just sit back and wait until it was healed. I could no longer focus my energy on skiing and had to try my best to redirect it all to physical therapy. I began setting rehab goals where I typically wrote my skiing goals.
The transition from being very active and not letting injuries stop me was taken out of my control. This injury had a lot of power over me which was tough to come to terms with. I felt really lost right after the injury and unsure of what the future would hold. This is where my TCO champion comes in, Brandon Schomberg; my physical therapist. He was very reassuring right from the start. It was very clear to me he knew exactly what to do and I could trust him and would not be alone on the journey. Brandon guided me to take back control over this injury and regain the power to decide the outcome. On January 12th, 2018 I had surgery, done by Dr. Christopher Larson. By then I was just happy to get started on my recovery and get back to what I love. From the second I woke up, I was anxious to start rehab and start my journey getting back in the start gate.
I quickly realized how difficult the next year would be, and whether or not I wanted to admit how injured I was. Brandon broke everything down into manageable steps and celebrated every little accomplishment along the way. His positive attitude and reassurance motivated me in a way no one else could have done. Soon, I began gaining momentum with rehab and enjoyed going and continuing setting goals. Brandon made the whole recovery fun and interesting and taught me a lot. I learned a lot about myself throughout the process and that I was capable of so much more than I had thought. Physical therapy became a place of discovery, not just where I did my exercises. Brandon encouraged me to be my best in every aspect of my life, from school to sports, to in the community. He also made sure I was having fun especially through the difficult times throughout my recovery. I came to know the Eden Prairie location very well, I felt welcomed at every appointment. I went into my first appointment for my knee expecting it to be a long and lonely process to get back skiing. I never expected to be embraced by so many people who were so invested in my recovery and wellness - they all felt like family.
After 10 months of lots of hard work and dreaming of skiing, I was finally able to get back to what I love. It was nerve-racking knowing the day I had been waiting for had finally come. I was scared to know what it would feel like being back on snow, especially considering it may never feel the same as it did before the injury. I had total confidence in my knee being strong but there was still so much unknown. Having a team of specialists surrounding me, who told me I was ready, allowed me to have confidence in myself in an area where I didn’t know what to expect. The ACE program and testing at the Training HAUS were critical to tracking my progress and determining when I was ready to return to skiing. I was always guided through the challenging and scary parts of my recovery by people I fully trusted, so I knew if they said I was ready, I was ready. Their confidence gave me confidence and empowered me to believe in myself. By the time I was on the chairlift, I had no worries, just excitement. By my second run, I felt like I was just where I left off the previous year and stronger than ever. Everything came back so naturally, it was the most rewarding feeling ever. Every time I got to go skiing after that felt like a gift I was incredibly grateful for. Even when I wasn’t able to get back in the race course I was overjoyed.
Every aspect of getting back to skiing went better than I could have ever imagined. My knee felt strong and as if nothing ever happened. My confidence freeskiing carried into the race course as well. Just 4 days shy of the one year anniversary of my surgery I got back into the starting gate for my first race back. Not only did I have full confidence in my knee but I won the race, exceeding my highest expectations. Every week on snow I accomplished things I had no idea if I’d ever get back to. The season just kept getting better. Throughout my whole recovery, there were two races I had my eyes on - sections and state. Not only was I looking forward to being there myself, but I was looking forward to being there with my team. One of the most challenging parts of the year off was not being on the hill with my team. Sections and State served as a time to celebrate and look back on my season with my teammate and enjoy how far I had come. I came in 2nd place and our team won the Section title, qualifying for State. At State, I came in 11th place and my team came in 3rd. It was the most amazing feeling to stand in the start gate at State without even thinking about my knee. It was so rewarding to have a result at State that represented all the work I had put into the past year and all the support from Dr. Larson, Brandon and the whole TCO team that made it possible.