Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery brings patients back to full speed
A team of experts helps everyone, from athletes to weekend warriors, get back to their favorite activities
Brought to you by Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery
Avalanche Physical Therapy, owned by Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery, operates clinics in Frisco, Silverthorne and Breckenridge. Services include physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Avalanche PT is also skilled in functional dry needling, instrumented manual tooling, therapeutic cupping, aquatic therapy, post-concussion rehabilitation and blood flow restriction therapy, as well as in a variety of orthopaedic injuries and neurological rehabilitation.
When Matt Quam tore his ACL and meniscus in 2019, he worried he wouldn’t get back to skate skiing, snowboarding and biking at the high level he was used to.
But Dr. Terrell Joseph at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery and Will Thompson, Quam’s physical therapist at Avalanche Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation in Silverthorne, knew better: Statistically, knee repair patients have a 95% to 98% success rate of repair and “healing very well,” Joseph said.
Guiding patients through the process
Granted, it takes a while: Thompson said ACL patients take about five to six months, depending on the injury, to complete a full rehabilitation program. Even then, maintaining strength, agility and flexibility are important to continue high-performance sports.
“They were very knowledgeable and very sympathetic to my sports needs,” Quam said. “I do things at a pro level, but I’m not a pro athlete, so I had a lot of questions about what my ability would be in the future. I’d call the office for guidance, and they’d say, ‘don’t worry. This is normal. Keep going.’ Even after my insurance ran out, they helped me with a plan for the future. I’m older now, and I needed to make sure my knee is strong for the future. Will really helped out with a progressive plan at home, and Dr. Joseph made me feel confident in my recovery— he talked it out, told me what to expect in the future and how to dial some things back.”
Like most athletic-minded people with injuries, Quam wanted to progress faster, which sometimes tempted him to push himself too fast. That’s when Thompson intervened.
“A lot of times, patients need guidance not to push too fast,” Thompson said. “We want to protect the surgeon’s work. We have protocols and know how tissues heal and progress, so we monitor when you’re ready for (specific) balance and strength exercises.”
Creating custom solutions
Every appointment at Avalanche Physical Therapy, which is owned by Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery, involves one-on-one attention the entire session, so therapists get to know and understand their patients’ goals and concerns.
“A patient’s goals are a big driving force for how we plan things out,” Thompson said.
Therapists usually start with soft tissue work and stretching to increase range of motion and help the muscles begin firing properly again, then work on regaining functional movement. For knee injuries, they focus a lot of work on BOSU balls and balance boards to strengthen and stabilize muscles around the knee to protect an ACL graft. Thompson and the other physical therapists at Avalanche Physical Therapy take pride in their ability to work with any challenges that may arise.
“Matt had small setbacks along the way. The first few times he went snowboarding, his leg felt weak. We worked on that area, and now he’s fully back to snowboarding and snow skating,” Thompson said.
Conquering new challenges
Not only did Quam return to his favorite sports, but, after completing physical therapy, he reversed the “helper/receiver” role. Quam and Thompson bonded around bike riding, and soon, Quam transformed Thompson from a beginner mountain bike rider to someone who conquered the approximately 5-mile, 4,000-vertical foot Mt. Elbert trail “that’s pretty much straight up,” Quam said.
“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done, both physically and mentally on a bike,” Thompson said.
Yet, Thompson came to Quam’s aid on the ride, when, about a quarter way up, Quam’s back seized up. Quam didn’t think he could make it back to the car, much less to the summit, but Thompson stretched him out and loosened him up, and viola – the pair reached the summit that day.
Thompson likens that ride to the journey of recovery from an injury. Patients start at the very bottom, gazing at the summit, wondering if they’ll ever make it. Along the way, there are times they want to give up. Therapists encourage and guide patients, helping them move toward the summit “because when you make it, it’s worth it,” Thompson said. “It’s just like physical therapy. You’re grinding all the way, but now, you get to enjoy all of these activities (you love).”
“We help them look way down the road,” Dr. Joseph said. “There are a lot of steps, but if you keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel … even 70-year-olds can get back out there. We have such good therapists who see this so often and know when to push a little harder so there’s a better outcome.
“Matt was fun because he had a lot of good energy. He’d say, ‘You tell me what to do, and I’m going to tackle this.’ That’s the way to go with these big surgeries. He’s a great example of (success) when patients put their minds and bodies into it.”