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Doctor gives new life to Tahoe’s skiers’ joints

A member of the Men’s U.S. Alpine Ski team shoots down the side of a mountain at speeds of 80 to 90 mph. By digging the edges of his skis into the often icy surface, he threads himself around a series of slender poles.

Dressed in a skin tight suit and armed with a racing helmet, he is an aerodynamic being, a device of speed.

Meanwhile, Dr. Terrence Orr, 48, an orthopedic surgeon and head team physician for the United States Mens’ Alpine Ski Team, is responsible for his medical well being – Orr also works for the Tahoe Fracture Clinic and operates out of Barton Memorial Hospital.



“They have to have the confidence to compete and not worry about the lingering effects of an injury,” Orr said.

Although major injuries are infrequent, the possibility of disaster is eminent – hip dislocations, knee injuries, fractures and concussions to name a few.




“I’ve been more of a good luck charm out there,” Orr said. “I haven’t been through some of the disasters.”

But, three years ago when U.S. Ski Team skier Chris Hernandez blew out his knee during a freestyle competition at Squaw Valley, it was Dr. Orr who – three days later – reconstructed his Anterior Cruciate Ligament or ACL.

Hernandez, who has known Orr for years and grew up with his children could not be dissuaded from having Orr treat him despite outside pressure.

“The team tried to get me to go to all these other doctors,” he said. “But I just stuck with him.”

Recently Hernandez had to visit Orr again for a sprained ankle that he received while pulling a 360 on his bike in Whistler, British Columbia.

Although the injury has temporarily sidelined him from ski camp in Oregon, Hernandez, 21, is recovering and continues with his dreams of competing in the Olympics on the freestyle ski team.

“I’m always thinking about it,” Hernadez said. “It’s the ultimate dream.”

In addition to recently being named head team physician for the Mens’ U.S. Alpine Ski Team, after 12 years as physician for the team, Orr has been appointed to the United States Ski and Snowboard Association’s newly-formed Physicians Committee – he is one of eight.

The committee manages the medical needs of over 150 USSA athletes and oversees a pool of over 140 physicians. It is an entity that oversees competitive skiing and snowboarding for the United States teams and other amateur competitions.

“I work with athletes of all levels,” Orr said. “This gives me the opportunity to work with athletes that are at the top of what they do.”

One of the people instrumental in getting Dr. Orr involved with the U.S. Ski Team was Dr. Richard Steadman, chief physician for the U.S. Ski Team and an othopedic surgeon who specializes in soft tissue at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colorado.

Steadman was an orthopedic surgeon at Barton Memorial Hospital for 20 years, and before he left in 1990, he had the opportunity to spend two years working with Dr. Orr.

“I was very aware of his talents,” Steadman said. “He has been able to distinguish himself among the skiers and those in the medical field…Dr. Orr has done an excellent job at making himself available, getting respect of the athletes and assessing medical situations.”

For Orr, it only makes sense that he is the head physician for the U.S. Mens’ Alpine Ski Team. A transplant from Chicago, Orr’s presence in Lake Tahoe is no accident.

“I came here because I love skiing, Orr said. “Its a big reason why I live here.”

His wife, Beachy, also an avid skier, raced on the ski team for Denver University.

But besides, living in the alpine beauty of Lake Tahoe, Orr, in his 12 years as a U.S. Ski Team physician, has had the opportunity to take some extraordinary trips to international competitions throughout the world, including the World Cup Finals in Italy last winter.

“Part of it has been that I try to take three or four days to see the country,” he said.

Orr learned how to ski when he was 12 years old, taking family trips to Taos, N.M. and smaller ski areas near Chicago.

A father of four, Orr’s children raced for the Heavenly alpine ski team. Later at South Lake Tahoe High School, they raced for the alpine ski team, one also for the nordic team. Even though Orr wasn’t the team doctor, sometimes he found himself playing that role.

“You go to an event and you become the team doctor for whatever it is your watching,” he said.

Although Skiing has been a love of Dr. Orr since childhood, he didn’t always know that he wanted to be a doctor.

He graduated from Purdue University in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics. He later decided that he would attend medical school and did so at the Medical College of Wisconsin, graduating in 1979 with a Master of Science in Physiology and a Doctorate of Medicine.

But it wasn’t until his third year of medical school – after a talk with his father’s friend who was an orthopedic surgeon – that he decided he too would follow that path.

He pursued an internship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago for a year and landed an orthopedic residency at Washington University in St. Louis, M.O. He worked at Northwest Community Hospital from 1984 to 88, and joined the Tahoe Fracture clinic in 1988 after he did a fellowship there in sports medicine.


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