World Champion U.S. alpine skier Lindsey Vonn announced on Wednesday that she had doubts about her quest to add to her World Cup titles after crashing in a practice run in Austria on February 2nd. The fall, where she jammed her ski tip, severely bruised a muscle in her right shin and left her status at ‘day-to-day’ less than a week from Olympic competition. Since sustaining the injury, Vonn, who is no stranger to pain, has tried everything from anti inflammatory drugs, lasers and even a home remedy of Austrian cheese. In 2006 she suffered a concussion, bruised pelvis and back during training for her first Olympics just two days before she was due to race. To many people's surprise she did end up racing, scoring a top ten finish.
The bruised shin muscle means that any pressure Vonn puts against her ski boot when bending her knees leaves her in an immense amount of pain. The muscle in question works in conjunction with the calf muscles and is the last to warm up and the last to cool down. It is a common area of pain for marathon runners and other athletes who do a large amount of high impact training, such as Alberto Salazar, US Olympic Marathon runner and World Champion, who tempers his high impact road training with an underwater treadmill. Weakness in the shin muscle can lead to the common ailment of shin splints which affects the muscle and tibia bone. Usually cold, low impact therapy of the leg can reduce inflammation and aid in strengthening the muscle without putting further strain on other areas of the leg.
Vonn is determined to race but the placement of the injury means that even putting on a ski boot means excruciating pain. Unlike the arm injury she also suffered this winter, the inability to count on her legs makes her more unsure of whether she will be ready to compete in her first of five events; the super combine, made up of one downhill run and one slalom run. Also dissimilar to the arm injury, increased activity can compromise the integrity of Vonn’s ability later in the Olympic winter games.
Perhaps the only element working in Lindsey Vonn’s favor in Vancouver has been the weather. British Columbia was hit with a series of storms; bringing rain rather than snow, as well as delays in the final practice runs and even the events themselves. The few extra days of rest may have been exactly what Vonn needed; leading to her posting the fastest time in the women’s downhill practice. However, the true test will take place today in the women’s downhill, the first Alpine Skiing major medal event, occurring at 11am in Vancouver.
Lindsey will also have a chance to take the slopes on Thursday, February 18th, and Saturday the 20th with the super combined downhill, super combined slalom, and the Super-G.
Emily Brown is a freelance writer who recently relocated to Colorado from the East Coast, where she has taken an interest in skiing. With the Olympics just underway, she has been spending a lot of time recently following skiing and the progress of U.S. alpine skier Lindsey Vonn.