For more than two months after Lindsey Vonn broke the humerus of her right arm in a November training crash at Copper Mountain, she declined to offer a time frame for her return to racing. On Wednesday she offered an explanation: There was a lot more to the injury than a broken bone.
Vonn revealed she sustained severe nerve damage in her arm, and following surgery to repair the fracture, she could not move her right hand. While undergoing arduous physical therapy she had to regain feeling, motor control and strength.
Vonn revealed the news Wednesday on her Facebook page, along with a 5-minute video showing scenes during her rehab.
“As you can see in the video, I woke up from surgery and had no function of my entire hand,” Vonn wrote. “I worked closely with my friend and physical therapist Lindsay Winninger and Patrick Rottenhofer every day to slowly regain my motor function. Today I am still struggling to do simple things like put on my ski glove and do my hair, but I’m at a point where I am comfortable with my hand in most situations.”
Vonn is expected to return to competition this weekend in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, where there will be a downhill Saturday and a combined race on Sunday.
“This has been the hardest recovery of my career to date, but thankfully it has taken less time to heal than my knee injuries,” Vonn wrote. “After my eight-week checkup with Dr. (Thomas) Hackett, my bone showed significant healing and I was given the green light to start training and if I was comfortable, start racing.”
Vonn has not competed since fracturing the tibial plateau in her left knee last February, stalling her pursuit of Ingemar Stenmark’s record for World Cup victories (86). Vonn has 76. Her return also sets her up to race in the biennial world championships, Feb. 6-19 in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Vonn also wrote in her Facebook post:
“This is just a small piece of my journey back from rehab to racing. During the entire process I documented my progress and was also shadowed by a film crew from Eurosport. Together we captured every high and every low for my new docu-series ‘Chasing History’. It will air in February, so you will be able to see my recovery as well as watch me continue to chase history in the future.”
Skiing icon Lindsey Vonn is a notoriously dedicated fitness addict; she frequently posts videos of her workouts to Instagram and recently authored a book centered around her training regime and diet.
She’s also a participant in a particularly violent sport, where broken bones and torn ligaments are routine when athletes crash at speeds above 75 miles per hour.
RELATED: Lindsey Vonn muses on whether snowboarders and skiers should have separate mountains
In short, if there are two things that Vonn knows a lot about, it’s training hard and recovering from brutal injuries.
And in an Instagram post Wednesday, she showed her mastery of both subjects by banging out a bunch of pull-ups just three weeks after severely fracturing her humerus in her right arm:
Making progress #givesyouwings
For reference, the typical recovery time for a fractured humerus is generally a couple months, not three weeks to the day of your injury.
And lest you think that maybe her injury wasn’t that serious, in a recent interview Vonn described her arm fracture as “by far the most painful injury I’ve ever had by a long shot.” Given Vonn’s extensive list of injuries she’s suffered recently, that’s certainly something to note:
In the same interview the 32-year-old Vonn confirmed that, despite her injury, she hopes to come back this FIS World Cup season.
And she also noted she isn’t letting her recent string of injuries dampen her spirit: Vonn was adamant that she will race in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
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After just over two months on the shelf with a broken arm, Lindsey Vonn announced her return to competitive skiing on Jan. 11.
As seen in the following Facebook post, Vonn revealed she underwent surgery nine weeks ago and that she suffered nerve damage in addition to breaking her humerus, but she is comfortable enough to get back on the slopes:
According to the Associated Press (h/t NBC Sports), Vonn finished 13th in her first race in 322 days, a World Cup downhill won by Austrian Christine Scheyer in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, on Sunday.
“I felt like I was skiing pretty well, just maybe not quite on the limit yet,” Vonn said per the AP. “It’s not really a matter of the results. It’s a matter of just being happy to be racing again. Of course I had higher expectations of myself, but considering the conditions and the fact that we had a training run and the race today, I think it was pretty good.”
The 32-year-old veteran has dealt with a myriad of injuries in recent years, including a knee ailment that kept her out of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Vonn bounced back to win both the super-G and downhill World Cup titles in 2015 and her eighth downhill World Cup title in 2016, although her 2016 season was cut short because of a knee fracture.
Vonn holds the all-time World Cup record with 20 overall titles, but Olympic success has largely eluded her, with just two medals to her credit from 2010 in Vancouver.
With the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, just over one year away, a strong 2017 campaign is paramount for Vonn in terms of positioning herself for some runs at gold.
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Lindsey Vonn has had plenty of injuries over the course of a career that has made her one of the most successful ski racers in history, including two knee injuries in 2013 that prevented her from racing in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and another last February. But complications from the broken right arm she suffered while training at Copper Mountain in November frightened her like no other because of associated nerve damage.
After surgery in Vail to fix her broken humerus, Vonn could not move her hand.
“This was the first time I was really scared that an injury might permanently hinder my ability to not only ski but function on a day-to-day basis,” Vonn told The Denver Post on Thursday from Austria, where she will return to competition this weekend for the first time in 11 months. “First I was in shock when I got out of surgery. I thought maybe they still had the nerve block in, but they didn’t.”
Giovanni Auletta, The Associated PressLindsey Vonn smiles during a news conference in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.
Her surgeon, Thomas Hackett, told her he was optimistic the nerve would regain function but there was no guarantee. He said it might take a few months, a year or two.
“That was incredibly scary and frightening,” Vonn said.
Vonn did most of her rehab in Vail with physical therapist Lindsay Winninger, although she did spend the Christmas holidays in Los Angeles with her sister and her boyfriend, Los Angeles Rams assistant coach Kenan Smith.
“I worked every day, just to be able to eat food and do my makeup and put my hair in a ponytail, just to shake someone’s hand,” Vonn said. “It was incredibly frustrating. The uncertainty of not knowing if my hand would come back was a lot to take in, and a lot to handle. I was lucky that I had so much support.”
She couldn’t cook and had difficulty dressing herself. There also was great anxiety: Unlike a knee injury, there was no guarantee her hand would eventually get better.
“Not knowing was the hardest part,” Vonn said.
Vonn will compete in a World Cup downhill Saturday at Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, then a combined race on Sunday. She has 76 World Cup wins and has Ingemar Stenmark’s all-time record (86) in sight, but she may not be as strong using her poles to burst out of the starting gate for a while.
“I’ve been working on my strength, and my triceps is strong,” Vonn said. “It’s not as strong as my other arm yet. My start will be compromised, but gripping a pole is fine. I have a strong grip, it’s mostly the extension of my hand, I can’t get my hand straight (and) I don’t have strength in my fingers. I have strength in my wrist now, but I do not have strength in my fingers. Putting on a glove — extending your fingers straight into a glove — is very difficult, especially when it’s cold. The nerve needs circulation and warmth. When it gets cold, it shuts down.”
Returning to competition this weekend helps her prepare for the biennial world championships, Feb. 6-19 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. She has six world championships medals, including two gold.
“This way I get a couple starts in,” Vonn said. “Hopefully I can get some good results and then go into the world championships really feeling ready. Unfortunately the risk in my arm, the risk of it breaking again above the plate or below the plate, is going to be high no matter when I start. It’s healed to the point where it’s really stable, but the risk will be there for the rest of my career.
“But it was driving me insane to be at home and not being able to ski even though my legs were working perfectly well.” Marco Trovati, The Associated PressLindsey Vonn smiles as she holds her dog Lucy during a news conference in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.
Broken bones, torn ligaments, more: Lindsey Vonn’s injuries
From a fractured ankle to a thumb sliced on a bottle of bubbly, from broken arm bones to torn knee ligaments, all manner of injuries has interrupted Lindsey Vonn’s highly successful skiing career.
There was even the time the American was helicoptered off a mountain after a body-battering crash during downhill training at the 2006 Turin Olympics. About 48 hours later, she was on her skis, competing.
That’s what Vonn does: She gets hurt, gets up and gets back out there.
“She’s relentless toward her goals. It’s not easy to continue to fight like she’s done,” said Vonn’s longtime sports physical therapist, Lindsay Winninger. “With each injury she’s had, she’s learned something about herself and her body. I believe she’s a better athlete for it.”
The 33-year-old Vonn says that her main focus until the Pyeongchang Olympics open Feb. 9 is to stay healthy.
A look at some of the times she was unable to do that:
BROKEN RIGHT ARM, November 2016
Hurt during a training run in her home state of Colorado. Needed surgery. The injury led to nerve damage; she couldn’t move her fingers initially and taped a ski pole to her right glove when she returned to racing. Vonn said later she worried about whether she would be able to use her hand in a normal way ever again and has called it the “hardest recovery of my career.”
FRACTURES IN LEFT KNEE, February 2016
Crashed during a World Cup super-G in Andorra. Taken off the mountain in a sled . Competed again the next day, but then went nearly a year without participating in a World Cup race afterward.
BROKEN LEFT ANKLE, August 2015
Injured during preseason training camp in New Zealand. Wasn’t ready to return at the start of the World Cup season in October, but did compete in late November.
TORN LIGAMENTS IN RIGHT KNEE, BROKEN BONE IN RIGHT LEG, February 2013
Vonn needed reconstructive surgery after tumbling when she landed in a patch of soft snow during the super-G at the 2013 world championships in Schladming, Austria. She tried to come back but got hurt again in a crash while training in Colorado in November and during a World Cup downhill at Val d’Isere, France, in December, tearing her repaired ACL and requiring another operation on her right knee. Announced in January 2014 she would have to miss the Sochi Olympics.
CONCUSSION, February 2011
Injured her head in a fall during World Cup practice in Austria. About a week later, she initially decided to compete — “skiing in a fog,” Vonn called it — at the world championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, before eventually withdrawing.
BRUISED RIGHT SHIN, February 2010
Slammed her right leg in slalom practice 10 days before the Vancouver Olympics started. Initially, could barely walk. Needed painkillers and a Novocaine-like numbing cream; also smeared a semisoft Austrian cheese, topfen, on her leg as a home remedy. Raced in the Winter Games, earning two medals: the first Olympic downhill gold for an American woman, and a bronze in the super-G. But she spun out of control during the giant slalom, breaking her right pinkie.
BRUISED LEFT FOREARM, December 2009
Crashed on the first run of a World Cup giant slalom in Lienz, Austria, losing her balance after a sharp turn and falling backward. She wound up not missing a race.
CUT RIGHT THUMB, February 2009
Safe to say Vonn’s oddest injury came off the slopes during the world championships in Val d’Isere, when she needed surgery after hurting herself with a champagne bottle during a photo op gone awry after winning gold in the downhill. “I’m not going to be opening champagne bottles any time soon — probably not for the rest of my life,” Vonn said about a month later. “That’s a mistake you definitely learn from.”
HYPER-EXTENDED RIGHT KNEE, BONE BRUISE, February 2007
Partially tore her right ACL in training. Sat out her last two races at the world championships in Are, Sweden, after winning two silvers earlier. Missed the rest of that World Cup season.
ASSORTED BRUISES AND ACHES, February 2006
Scary fall during downhill training at the Turin Olympics caused a bruised thigh, aching back and sore pelvis. She left the hospital — even trying to grab her belongings and sneak out when the checkout process was taking longer than she wanted — and competed less than 48 hours later. She wound up racing in all four events she’d planned, with a top result of seventh in the super-G. “It’s definitely weird,” she said back then, “going from the hospital bed to the start gate.”
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed to this report.
More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org/
Why Olympic Skier Lindsey Vonn Loves Her Scar
Photo: Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Stringer/Getty Images
As she’s amping up for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games (her fourth!), Lindsey Vonn continues to prove she’s unstoppable. She recently pulled out a World Cup win, becoming the oldest woman to win a downhill event at age 33. We caught up with the skiier to discuss how she stays motivated and what she’s learned during her long career.
Why the Wipe-Outs Are Sill Worth It
“The rush of skiing 80-plus miles per hour down a mountain just never gets old. You have no one telling you what to do or giving you a score. It’s just you and the mountain and the fastest skier wins. That has kept me going all these years.”
The Scar She Rocks with Pride
“I used to think the huge purple scar along the back of my right arm was hideous. But the harder I worked in rehab, the more I felt like it was a badge of strength. Now I embrace it and wear sleeveless dresses and tops because the scar is part of who I am. It’s made me stronger and I’m proud to show it off.”
What Quickly Kills Her Workout
“The bulk of my training program uses normal equipment, but I like mixing it up. Monotony in your workout is a motivation killer. When I train at Redbull they have a ton of new and unique equipment that I can experiment with and find new ways to get stronger and more athletic.” (Enhance your workout with this high-tech fitness equipment.)
The Only Way She’ll Face Subzero Mornings
“A bowl of oatmeal with blueberries and cinnamon with a side of scrambled eggs is the perfect breakfast.” (Steal her secret and try this blueberry coconut oatmeal with cinnamon.)
Her Happy Place
“Home with my dogs. After competing for so many years, I just want to relax when I get free time, and being with my dogs always makes me happy. After competing for so many years, I realize that taking time for myself is important. Stress and racing take a lot out of me, and if I don’t recharge my batteries I’ll eventually run out of energy. I have to be proactive and make sure I am getting the rest I need, not just to win, but to be happy.” (Proof: Lindsey Vonn Gets a Gold Medal for Her Active Recovery Game.)
“When I’m training I have pre-made meals which aren’t too exciting but help me train hard. When I’m on my spring break after ski season or having a rough day, froyo with Reese’s Pieces always does the trick.”
How She Keeps Her Edge
“Injuries have taught me that I am stronger than I know. Will and determination have gotten me back to the top every time.”
- By By Mary Anderson