Skiing is my life’s passion (alongside my wife and children just in case they are reading this….). I started skiing on a school holiday in the 1970s; I met my wife while we were both working as ski guides in the late 1980s and my son and daughter work as ski instructors in Canada. So to say skiing has been a major part of my life would be an understatement.
I am no extreme sportsman. Like many reading this I have a normal job and grab my skiing when I can during the season. In January 2014 I went to visit the kids in Canada. On the second day of my trip I had a slow twisting fall on an icy slope, my knee popped, leading to a trip down the mountain in a blood wagon.
Fast forward a few days and I was at the Wimbledon Clinic at the recommendation of a friend. In the clinic reception I noticed a poster advertising the Wimbledon Clinic return to skiing course in conjunction with the Warren Smith Ski Academy and immediately set my 1st target. I needed to be on the ski course in November.
My consultant Adrian Fairbank explained very clearly that I had ruptured my Anterior Cruciate Ligament, hyper extended my Medial Collateral Ligament and damaged my Meniscus. He explained that following a successful operation and rehabilitation I should be able to attend the back to ski course.
After the operation to reconstruct my ACL and several months of physiotherapy I had a final knee stability review with Adrian and a muscle strength test with James Vickers (specialist Physiotherapist) to determine whether I could attend the back to ski course. It was at this stage that the fear really started to take hold. Would Adrian and James clear me, if they did clear me would I actually be able to ski again? Fortunately both gave me the all clear and James gave me some additional exercises to work the muscles required for skiing.
The closer I got to skiing the more I began to worry that my knee would not stand up to it. This wasn’t helped by non-skiing friends telling me that I was mad to want to go back to such a ridiculous sport. As the course approached I started to have a recurring dream, I was being told that there would be no problem with me skiing, however I would never again be able to take my skis and boots off. A sort of deal with the devil! Each time I had the dream I woke up before making the decision. I think my emotions were getting the better of me.
So the 22nd November arrived. On my drive to Hemel Hempstead I thought about turning around and going home. I was beginning to convince myself that I was not ready. On arrival James welcomed me with a friendly, confidence building greeting and introduced me to Jonathan Bell – Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at the Wimbledon Clinic. Jonathan has been running the back to ski course for 9 years and he made me feel very welcome. I was then introduced to Phil Hopper, the Warren Smith Academy Coach. Phil recommended a few warm up runs to start with just to wake up the skiing muscles. I waited for everybody to move forward and set off. I gingerly moved up and stood next to Phil, my turn now! I moved in to position tapped my ski poles together in true skier fashion and pushed off in to………probably my most cautious turn ever. I was conscious of my knee for the first run but by the end of the second run I was more concerned about my technique. Phil explained that it would take us time to return to the skiers we once were, but with the advice and help the team would provide, we would not only achieve that but we would become stronger skiers. We worked on several drills and Jonathan and James were with us on the slope every step of the way offering words of advice and reassurance. I also had several interesting knee related conversations with most of the group (the post op knee community are a very friendly bunch). By the end of the day my skiing was already beginning to improve again and the motivation provided by the team helped rebuild my confidence tremendously.
So, back to where I started. Skiing has been such a large part of my life I want to ensure I come back stronger, fitter and more confident than ever before and I firmly believe the time spent with Jonathan, James and Phil has provided me with the perfect platform to work from.
Finally, it looks like I didn’t have to make that deal with the devil after all…..I managed to get my boots and skis off without any problem and drive home unencumbered.
To find out more about our Return from Injury Ski Day please click here.