Lalive hoping for October, November return to skiing
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Former Truckee resident Caroline Lalive turned 27 this week, and she’s hoping a delayed birthday present will be U.S. Ski Team surgeon Dr. William Sterett saying her injured kneecap is healing nicely and she can be back on skis in October or November.
Lalive, who was born 27 years ago Thursday in Truckee, shattered her left kneecap and femur, and tore a quad tendon Jan. 25 in an awkward landing off a jump during downhill training in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
Ironically, it took place the same day she was named to her third Olympic Team; she watched the Torino Winter Games on TV at home.
Doctors in Italy said her patella was broken into “four or five” pieces, but Sterett, who is on the staff of the famed Steadman-Hawkins Clinic at Colorado’s Vail Valley Medical Center, said her kneecap was in dozens of pieces. Lalive has undergone operations to repair the kneecap and stabilize her femur, the large bone in a person’s thigh. Now she’s looking to continue ski racing.
“I’ve been able to be a lot more active, which is always good,” said Lalive, who now lives in Steamboat Springs, Colo. “I’m just waiting for my strength to come around. I’ll have another surgery in the next week or two, and hopefully it will all be forward from there.
“Hopefully, Dr. Sterett will just be taking out my hardware, well, not all of it, but some, and checking on my femur as well to see how it’s healed. I hope it’ll all be looking good and I’ll get the green light to continue.
“I can’t wait for them to look under the hood and see what’s there.”
Melinda Roalstad, medical director for the U.S. Ski Team, said, “We should have a good idea of how Caroline’s progressing with this next surgery. She’s definitely doing much better and making faster progress than we had anticipated, but there’s no thought at all on a date when she could return to skiing.”
Lalive’s recovery, of late, has included plenty of physical activity – especially biking and hiking. She takes daily hikes, walking with her dog – a 2-year-old yorkie named Puppy – and her sister’s mutt, Kaya.
“I try to take ’em swimming daily in the river or the creeks around here,” she said. “It’s good to let ’em get out and go swimming; it’s good for them … and for me. The dogs are awesome.
“I think just with improved mobility in my life and getting back to enjoying the small things helps everything.”
There has been activity of a mental sort, too, for the 27-year-old freshman.
“Really, my life’s pretty simple – therapy, school,” she said.
She’s been taking classes at Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat, one course on psychology and another on western civilization.
“Yup, that’s me – the (27)-year-old freshman,” she laughed. “I’ll have a three-week break and then fall back with the studies in the fall semester.
“It’s been really good to get my brain going again. It’s been hard; you forget how to study, how to take tests. I’m used to training, to the physical side and not the mental, so this has been a good change, a different kind of discipline and it brings some good balance for my life, too, so it’s not all just training and skiing.”
One big step in her recovery, Lalive said, was getting permission to ride a bike in March, then she stopped using a cane in May.
“I’m phasing myself back into normal living. Every day you’re closer to regular living. I was going to therapy three or four days a week, and now I’m at the stage where it’s more strengthening and not so much therapy-oriented,” she said.
“It’s all part of the transition. I still go in to check-in and see how it’s going. Y’know, you feel better because there are more tangible and visual ways of improvement. I still have days when I’m far from where I want to be, but I look back to where I was and this is definitely so encouraging.
Lalive: “I’m not going to rush”
If all goes according to plan, Lalive hopes to be skiing again well before winter arrives.
“My main emphasis is just my strength, and getting into a position where I’m going to ski strong and confidently. Then my goal – if all goes as I hope – is to start free skiing come October or November, and then go from there.
“I’m not going to rush things, just see how every day pans out.”
Although she has battled other injuries in her career, Lalive – who all but clinched an Olympic spot last December when she finished second behind teammate Lindsey Kildow in a downhill in Val d’Isere, France – said this multi-faceted situation is like nothing she’s experienced.
“Being an athlete, you certainly want to be better now, but the whole process is another learning experience. I couldn’t walk for so long, then I was using a cane. It’s just something you have to go through. This injury is not like an ACL where you have a reference for time. An ACL is pretty pat for skiers with six or eight months as a time frame. With this, though, everyone is watching to see how it goes.”
Lalive is light years ahead of where she was six months ago, and she’s looking to keep her medical momentum moving forward quickly and safely.