The Realities of a Risky Sport

 

In September 2017, I was offered an opportunity of a lifetime: work as the sole Athletic Therapist for a successful young professional skier. The decision as to whether to pursue this opportunity or not was difficult as I was working full time and felt pretty confident in the work I was accomplishing as an Athletic Therapist here in Toronto. However, although I felt comfortable, I knew that in order to grow personally and professionally I needed to push myself past my comfort zone. Little did I know at the time how much my life would change by accepting this new challenge.

I met Canadian National Alpine skier, Ali Nullmeyer through the Toronto Athletic Club Sport Medicine Clinic and quickly became intrigued in the new opportunity presented to me to travel the World Cup Circuit as her personal Athletic Therapist. As the circuit started mid October, I only had a few weeks to get my affairs in order and headed for Switzerland.

Four weeks into training for the first WC event of the season in Soelden, Austria we were blindsided when Ali suffered a season ending injury during a routine run: bilateral Anterior cruciate ligament tears (more commonly know as the ACL) and lateral meniscus root damage. Our minds had to immediately shift from excitement and nerves to rehab and recovery. As you can imagine this was a huge disappointment, but we understood the best course of action to take in a situation like this was to maintain positivity and look forward earnestly.

This new challenge was daunting and the decision making process escalated quickly as we needed to get back to Canada and start the recovery. It was amazing but also overwhelming to hear the exuberant amount of opinions given by many experienced people as to how we should pursue a course of recovery. It was hard to really hone in on what was perfect for Ali's recovery when everyone's road is different and the rehabilitation process needs to be individualized to fit each person's needs. The recovery requirements are sport-specific, which need to be tailored to the injured person's personality as well as the severity of injury.

We met and sought counsel from several individuals and ultimately decided the best option was to engage the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado to conduct the required surgeries. With their exceptional experience with skiers and snowboarders it seemed like the perfect fit for Ali. She travelled to Vail on two separate occasions to have ACL and lateral meniscus root repair surgeries eight weeks apart from each other in November and January.

The recovery has had its rough patches, but overall has been a fantastic success. Ali hopes to return to snow in October and her drive to accomplish this feat is incredible. She continues to put a smile on during the most tedious of exercises as she regains strength and can complete higher level rehabilitation and training.

Two surgeries, two PRP injections, many hours in the clinic/gym and we are now well on the road to recovery and return to sport. I learned that staying positive in a time like this is everything. It is easy to look at things negatively, feel sorry for yourself/others and be disappointed, but these actions do not promote success. There is little gained in looking to the past for answers; one must have a short memory and push forward to try and improve the situation at hand as well as conquer the upcoming tasks.

This journey has taught me that every experience helps to shape a person and that there is always something to add to the toolbox; never stop experiencing new opportunities because you don't know what will come of it! Although this opportunity did not take the expected course it has been one of the best professional experiences I could have ever asked for and I look forward to continuing the journey with Ali as she gets back to snow!