The goal: Skiing again in Chile
You don’t have to be an Olympic skier to injure yourself in the sport — a fact that Paul Jenkins of Charlottesville knows all too well.
“My wife and I were skiing in Chile,” says Paul. “Nowhere all that dangerous, but the mountain had gotten about three feet of snow the day before, and we got caught up in a ‘release.’”
Paul was carried in the release, a small avalanche, for about 150 yards.
“It was snow about chest deep, and I was tossed around like I was in a washing machine,” he recalls. “I remembered that in an avalanche you are supposed to ‘swim’ through it and try to keep your head up, so I kept moving my arms and legs as if I was swimming.”
At some point during the ordeal, his left ski released and disappeared — but the right one stayed on. The imbalance might have caused his knee injury.
“I was buried up to my torso, and I had tried to pull myself out,” Paul says. “I got my left leg out quickly, but because my right ski was still on, I had to dig it out so I could release my boot. I knew I had tweaked my knee, but I had to keep pulling my leg so I could get out.”
An X-ray showed that he hadn’t broken anything; however, he decided to see a doctor when he got home.
“I went to see Dr. Matthew Panzarella, and he diagnosed the ACL tear in about 30 seconds,” Paul says.
“He had a complete tear to his ACL,” recalls Dr. Panzarella, who works with Sentara Martha Jefferson Orthopedics, “as well as a torn medial meniscus and a small tibial fracture that didn’t show up on the X-rays and was only detected on a follow-up MRI.”
Paul had an arthroscopic autograft surgery. After three months of physical therapy, his leg felt more stable.
“Before the surgery, my knee was completely wobbly,” he says. “I always had to brace myself because I felt like it was just going to come out from under me. Every week I’m regaining more of my range of motion, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be back to the full range of motion soon. I am 100 percent confident that I’ll be skiing again in Chile.”