The swelling around Lindsey Vonn’s repaired right knee has gone way down after surgery and her spirits way up.
Back in time for the 2014 Sochi Games?
Try possibly back in time for the beginning of the World Cup season in late November.
The doctor who operated on Vonn’s injured right knee thinks the four-time overall World Cup champion just might return that soon.
That’s the goal, anyway. And it’s looking more promising following the procedure by Dr. Bill Sterett on Sunday to fix Vonn’s knee after she shredded two ligaments during a crash last week at the world championships in Schladming, Austria.
Sterett examined the knee again Monday and was optimistic about what he saw: Less swelling, increased range of motion and little discomfort.
But this is what struck him most: Her determination to attack her recovery like she would a downhill course.
“She’s in full-charge mode,” Sterett told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “She’s like, ‘When can I start upper-body strengthening? When can I start working on my core? When can I spin on a stationary bike with my other leg?’
“I haven’t seen a hint of post-traumatic depression from her, or her feeling sorry for herself or her sad or asking, ‘Why now?’ She’s all about, ‘When can I? When can I? When can I? “’
Sterett did caution Vonn that’s it’s going to be a steady process to return to full strength.
This is something she can’t rush after tearing her anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments last week during a fall in the super-G competition. She also broke a bone in her lower leg.
“Hers was a little bit of an unusual injury. The ACL has a very typical and standard return to snow progression and it’s fairly predictable,” said Sterett, a surgeon for the U.S. Ski Team and at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics. “Hers was complicated by a little bit more of a severe MCL injury that needed surgery as well. That’s going to necessitate us going a little bit slower right off the bat. Then, we’ll play catch-up down the line.”
Still, Sterett thinks she very well could be ready in time for the World Cup speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta, in late November or early December, a venue where she’s won so often that it’s become known as “Lake Lindsey.”
Vonn also wants to be healthy enough to ski in Beaver Creek, Colo., in December, when the venue hosts both the men and the women as it prepares for the 2015 world championships.
“But there are a lot of hurdles you can have between now and then,” he said. “Everybody’s goals are that. That’s what she’s got her focus on.”
That hardly looked feasible given her serious fall in the super-G last Tuesday. The 28-year-old Vonn was lifted into the air off a jump in the opening race at the championships.
Upon landing, her right leg gave way and she spun down face first, throwing an arm out to protect herself. Vonn ended up on her back as she smashed through a gate.
Vonn received medical treatment on the snow before being airlifted by helicopter to a hospital.
“She was actually fairly certain she had shattered her (leg),” said Sterett, who treated her on the mountain and flew back to Vail with her. “That’s how she felt.”
Instead, she fractured the tibial plateau, the result of her thigh bone slamming into the top of her tibia bone.
“It was not displaced enough that it would need surgery,” Sterett said.
But it was significant enough that she will need to stay on crutches for the next six weeks. She also will not be allowed to bend her knee too much, just to give the MCL more time to heal.
“In all honesty, the first few months will be me trying to pull the reins back on Lindsey than having to push her, in terms of therapy,” Sterett said. “But I can’t emphasize enough how upbeat she’s been through all of this. She’s very goal-oriented. She’s got her sights set on these next two years.”
The outcome better than first feared?
“Well, I think the world is more optimistic than they were before,” Sterett said. “I knew what her injuries were pretty quickly. She’s absolutely doing as well as can be expected.
“She’s attacked this like, ‘OK, this is an injury. Now, Doc, tell me what the next step is.’ We’ve gone step by step. She’s asking about what the progression is and how she can get back as quick as she can.”
As for any further surgeries, Sterett said that remains a possibility, but doesn’t anticipate it.
“You just never know what’s coming down the line,” he said. “She will do (therapy) exactly how it’s outlined.”
“I would say it’s safe to say she’s going to push the limits on how much she’s allowed to do,” he said.