Santa Barbara- S County

Local surgeon seeing spike in ski-related injuries

'ACL tears and MCL tears'

Local surgeon seeing spike in...

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The winter storms are taking a toll on people's health, especially some of the more active people in town, leaving town to ski.

As the snowfall mounts, so do the injuries.

"I've seen two ski injuries this morning," Dr. William Gallivan told NewsChannel 3. "One shoulder, one knee."

The orthopedic surgeon said he's seeing a spike in patients with ski and snowboarding-related injuries. Normally, he said he sees a couple each week, not every day.

"Some of it's avoidable, some of it's not," Gallivan said. "There are collisions, there are people that run off into the deeper snow from the groomed and have trouble recovering. Then, there's the running into trees at high speeds. We see a whole spectrum of injuries, including head and neck."

Dislocated shoulders, broken collarbones and wrists and torn thumb ligaments are becoming as common as moguls on Mammoth Mountain and are putting people in casts for at least six weeks or under the knife.

Gallivan said the body part taking the brunt of the snow-driven quest after nearly six years of drought is the knee; roughly 45% of ski-related injuries involve knees.

"We don't know until we look inside the knee whether it's going to be a reconstruction where we take another tendon and recreate the ligament through drill holes or whether we can sew it back together," said Gallivan.

It is a dilemna now facing Louise Stewart, a Santa Barbara dermatologist who is treating her patients these days while wearing a knee brace after suffering a mishap on the slopes.

"I was talking to a friend, our skis connected and we couldn't separate," Stewart told NewsChannel 3. "I just slid and kind of did the splits and twisted my knee."

Stewart tore her right knee in three places. The unofficial diagnosis: she blew it out, damaging her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) and bruised her leg bone.

Gallivan, who is treating Stewart for her knee injuries, may recommend surgery if she wants to continue skiing or being active in the future.

"When I see somebody that tears an anterior crucial ligament, I feel badly for 'em," Gallivan said.

Gallivan said new bindings and improved technology have drastically cut the number and severity of ski-related injuries since the 1970's. Still, recovery from surgery could take a good, long year.

Stewart offered up advice to those tempted by the winter snow who haven't skied in six years.

"You have to warm up," Stewart said. "You have to do a little exercise ahead of time and just have to be careful. And think about what you're doing."


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