When ski season’s over with a single ‘pop’
January 16, 2007
Aspen, CO ColoradoGLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Fresh snow makes Angie Quinn smile.Behind her soft-blue eyes is still the little girl who grew up on the slopes in northern Idaho. On Dec. 1, opening day at Sunlight Mountain Resort, she was excited to finally get out on the mountain.New to Glenwood Springs from Idaho, Quinn moved here just five months earlier to become the events coordinator at Sunlight. She was eager to discover the world-class skiing that Colorado has to offer. She’d already had six skiing days at some of the mountains that opened early. But her inaugural run at Sunlight, on opening day, was her last of the season when she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) with one wrong move.”I don’t like to fall,” Quinn said. “But had I just fallen, then I probably wouldn’t have hurt myself.”First, the ‘popQuinn, 21, started that fateful day on an intermediate run just to get her legs warmed up. She hit a bump, causing her to go back on her ski tails making her pull up hard with her quads. That’s when she heard the “pop.”No skier wants to hear the “pop.”She spun around, 180 degrees in the air, landed backwards and surprisingly skied out of the near accident. Her knee felt a little weak she said, but at that moment she didn’t think anything serious had happened. She finished that first run and went to the ski lift, ready to go again.But something was wrong. When she pushed off with her right leg, her knee buckled and that’s when she knew.Her season was over.”I went to my office and just started to cry,” she admitted. “At that point, I thought that I would never ski again. It was over.”
For an experienced skier like Quinn, who in her own words “grew up on the mountain,” tearing her ACL illustrates how common knee injuries can be.Quinn has been carving the slopes since the ripe-age of 3, and prefers expert terrain over the smooth transitions of the blue “groomers.” But it doesn’t always take something as extreme as a double-diamond black slope to result in a season-ending injury.The journey backQuinn got her first job at Schweitzer Mountain ski area in Idaho at the age of 14. Now with her current position at Sunlight, skiing is still an important part of her life, and all she wanted to focus on was getting back on the sticks.”I’ve always said that if you don’t fall you’re not trying hard enough,” Quinn said. “Getting hurt happens. But you build up your strength and continue to play the same sports as before.”The road to recovery began in the operating room 11 days after her injury. Quinn went to Dr. Robert Adams of Orthopaedic Associates in Glenwood Springs for her initial consultation the same day of the incident.She wanted to hit the road to recovery as fast as possible.”I’m surprised at how quickly the recovery has been,” Quinn said. “When it happened I thought that I would never be able to ski as well as I did before. And three weeks later I’m already walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes. It’s amazing.”Physical therapist Linda Geiss, of Valley View Hospital, said rehabilitation programs have come a long way in her lifetime. Geiss suffered a similar injury when she was a teenager, and said that she was in a cast for a month and then in a brace, using crutches, for an additional six weeks.”Physical therapy wasn’t supervised like it is today,” Geiss said. “They would give patients literature and instruct them on how to rehab the knee, but it was the patient’s responsibility to do the exercises.”Currently, physical therapy is prescribed by the doctor, and the knee is worked immediately after surgery.Immediately is no stretch.Patients, like Quinn, use a Continuous Passive Motion (CPM) machine for 8 hours a day, starting the day after surgery and lasting for a week. The CPM keeps the joint bending back and forth, rather than keeping it stationary, just to prevent the knee from getting stiff.Quinn’s rehab started in the recovery room, just two hours after the surgery with basic leg stretches and instruction on the CPM. This initial visit was to determine the number of visits the patient will need and to educate them on the exercises they can and should do at home, Geiss said.”We always prescribe a home program,” she added. “Each time they come in they get a different program and new exercises.”Programs are tailored to the individual patient’s goals.Quinn’s goal is simple – to ski again, to get back to the sport that’s shaped her life.”We make the program as aggressive as they can tolerate,” Geiss said as Quinn finished up another exercise at the Valley View Rehabilitation Center. “She (Quinn) never stops.”
‘I will ski again’The first days back at work, on the mountain where she injured herself, were tormenting. But the snow still makes Angie Quinn smile.”Every once in a while you need to refocus yourself and think about what you’re going through, just to get through it,” she said. “At first I didn’t have any time to myself just to think about what had happened.”Quinn thought that it was going to be horrible working at a ski area every day and not being able to hit the slopes.But it hasn’t been too bad. Quinn looks for the positive things in her life to help her get through this difficult incident.”I live in Colorado, have an amazing job and a great roommate,” she said. “And I will ski again. That’s what you have to weigh out, because in the end, that’s what’s important.”Talk of skiing brings a smile to her face. The kid behind those soft-blue eyes perks up like she’s just woken to the first snow of the season.Now her free time is spent rehabbing her damaged knee, focusing on her job duties and crocheting – lots of crocheting.”I’m crocheting everyone I know winter hats,” she said. “I have a lot of time to sit around and heal.”This was Quinn’s first major injury. She may have to sit out most of this season, but the top of the mountain has not seen the last of her.Not by a long shot.”I was hoping to get over 100 days in this year,” she said with a confident grin. “I’m still hoping to get a few days in at the end of this season.”For now, she will have to do something that she’s not used to doing on the mountain.Watching from the bottom.