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Tahoe doctor to treat U.S. Ski Team

April Heath/Tribune News ServiceDr. Peter Costa looks over MRIs with patient Beth Schmalz at the Carson Valley Medical Clinic.
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It takes precision, ability and courage to be a member of the U.S. Ski Team.

In addition to those attributes, it takes a unique person to be responsible for the care and health of the athletes.

Enter Dr. Peter Costa, a 41-year-old physician at the Tahoe Spine Center for Tahoe Fracture and Orthopedic Medical Clinic who has been named the spine specialist with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.



Costa, who primarily works at Carson Valley Medical Center, will sit on an eight-member medical committee with Dr. Terry Orr. Orr also works at Tahoe Fracture and already serves on the U.S. Ski Team physician pool consisting of 120 doctors.

Orr worked with the U.S. Men’s Alpine Ski Team during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.




The latest distinction puts Tahoe Fracture on the map for world-class athletes expected to frequent the orthopedic center.

It’s estimated 90 percent of the athletes suffer from some degree of injury in their sports. The most common involves the knee.

Twice a year, the committee — on which the two regional doctors now serve — meets to review injuries, discuss issues and set policy with six other nationally acclaimed doctors. Former South Lake Tahoe surgeon Dr. Richard Steadman, now a resident of Vail, Colo., heads the panel.

The Tahoe Fracture doctors will oversee the medical management of the athletes and provide physicals at camps.

“It’s quite an honor,” Costa said. “I thought about working with the team in the past and got the opportunity to do so.”

Orr recommended Costa.

“I don’t think they could have made a better choice. Peter is very much an athlete (himself),” Orr said, noting the physical and mental aspects that go along with the role.

Orr added Costa advocates spine physical therapy. This means strengthening and conditioning muscles surrounding the body’s core.

But it’s also the head where much of the game, or training, is carried.

“I understand the skier’s perspective. (Injuries) are difficult for them to come to grips with. It helps for them to know they’re not the first,” Costa said.

Costa said he realizes it’s a big step for professional athletes to put their bodies in someone else’s hands. That’s why faith in the practitioner is key.

“Their body is their business,” he said.

Costa aims to develop a plan to evaluate spine problems on the teams.

That way the doctors will maintain better control of how to attack spinal issues as they crop up. There’s always that debate with back problems — rehabilitation versus surgery or both.

“Not everyone with a disk injury has to have surgery,” he said.

One of the main goals centers on the athlete’s retirement.

“We want the athlete to walk away from the ski team with a healthy body,” Costa said.

The Gardnerville man graduated from the University of Nevada in 1984 and its medical school four years later.

“I’ve worked with him for the past three seasons and have been thoroughly impressed by his professionalism, knowledge and his ability to connect with our athletes concerning pro-active, preventive measures to manage chronic conditions,” said Melinda Roalstad, medical director for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.


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