Climber Mike Kimmel gripped a ledge with his fingertips 50 feet up a sheer cliff. Pain suddenly tore through his shoulder, and he fell. Although a rope caught him in midair, the fall crushed Kimmel’s hopes.
Journey of Recovery
An MRI confirmed what Kimmel had suspected instantly: his rotator cuff had torn. Again. “A massive tear,” he recalls, the third tear in as many years.
The first rotator cuff tear had cost Kimmel his dream job as a climbing guide in China. The second one sent him back to school for a master’s degree, so that he could teach.
The third tear was so severe that it might well have ended Kimmel’s climbing career.
But Dr. Peter Millet, a renowned shoulder specialist, performed an innovative surgery on Kimmel. He topped the rotator cuff repair with a collagen patch: a “scaffold” for re-growing cartilage.
For rehabilitation, Dr. Millett then sent Kimmel to Vail Health’s Howard Head Sports Medicine – the health care provider for the US national climbing, skiing, snowboarding and freestyle skiing teams.
Third Time’s a Charm
Howard Head’s expert physical therapists developed a totally new shoulder-rehab regimen that they decided to use for climbers like Kimmel.
The exercises were tailored for the specific movements and strains of rock climbing. This would ensure Kimmel’s rotator cuff would fully heal this time and be strong enough to climb in the future.
For months Kimmel worked hard at his physical therapy routine, each exercise laying groundwork for the next.
Now three years post-surgery, his shoulder feels as good as new. In fact, Kimmel reports he’s never climbed better.
The third time proved to be the proverbial charm for Kimmel. Thanks to innovative surgery at Vail Health Hospital and groundbreaking physical therapy at Howard Head, it can be a charm for other shoulder-surgery patients as well.
The innovative and effective post-op protocols developed for Kimmel are the new standard of care at Vail Health. And they will soon be taught nationwide to help athletes get active again – faster, better and stronger.
Thanks to Howard Head, I’m climbing even better than I was before my first injury.