US Ski Team Trip Val Gardena, Italy 2020 Cody Tipton, MD
This past December I had the opportunity to join the US Men’s Alpine Speed Team in Val Gardena, Italy to serve as the on-site physician. Traveling abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic presented its own challenges, but the experience was well worth the life long memories and learning.
Two days prior to my departure I received a Covid-19 PCR required for travel into Switzerland. I arrived in Zurich, picked up a rental car and spent a mandatory three day ‘quarantine’ prior to joining the team in Davos. While I was unable to be much of a tourist in Switzerland, I was able to enjoy several days skiing the Swiss Alps.
With my quarantine completed I drove to Val Gardena Italy, joining the team the evening prior to the first training day. They coordinated a COVID PCR test at a central testing center that returned negative. I attending training room that night where I was able to meet the head PT for the speed team as well as each of the athletes. This presented a nice social opportunity to hang out with the team as there were to ongoing injuries to attend to.
With a fresh 2” on the ground and a forecast of nothing but sunshine the weather in Val Gardena was perfect for exploring Val Gardena, ideal for training and racedays, and presented some Stellar views.
The first training day began with breakfast with the team, hoping in the car shortly thereafter for inspection of the course. The team performed exceptionally and spirits were high. Training day 2, however, one of the athletes sustained bilateral tibia closed fractures and was flown off the hill to the nearest level one trauma hospital just an hour from the mountain. Able to watch the accident from the finish area, I jumped in my car, arriving at the hospital shortly after the athlete arrived. There I met with 3 surgeons and helped coordinate the operative plan for the athlete. Unable to be in the operative theatre, spent the next several hours as the liaison between our injured athlete and the head Physician in the states, coordinating his return trip, additional imaging to be required upon arrival, and keeping his family up to date with his status. Fortunate to have isolated musculoskeletal injuries, our athlete did well through his successful surgeries. He awoke post op and his secondary exam remained negative for additional injuries. I was able to discuss with him the extent of his injuries, review with him his preop and post op imaging, and the recovery that would ensue. The gratitude he expressed of having and English-speaking physician and friend by his side was by far the most rewarding part of the trip. I was able to provide recommendations for post-operative medications including DVT prophylaxis, and examine him twice a day despite the no visitor COVID policy, his exams remained reassuring and we were able to get him home to recover on post op day 4
While my primary job had become the care of our injured athlete, I still returned back to the mountain for the races where I was able to witness RCS take his first ever podium in downhill! The morning following the races, the majority of the athletes had already departed onto the next leg of the season, but I drove to the hospital for one final visit with out injured athlete. His gratitude continues and we stay in touch as he continues to send me updates of his status.
From the hospital I drove back to Zurich for my return flight after receiving another COVID PCR coordinated by the team. I had a one night layover in D.C. where I was able to sleep off the jet lag, returning to Taos the following day.