Champion skier Lindsey Vonn is in the hospital following a Tuesday night crash during the opening day of the women's Super-G at the Alpine world championships in Austria. The accident resulted in multiple ligament tears in her knee, the New York Times reported.
The 28-year-old athlete lost her balance after a jump, landing on her right leg, The Guardian reported. She was airlifted to a nearby hospital, according to the paper, where she was being treated for a tear to her anterior cruciate ligament, as well as a tear in her medial collateral ligament. She also suffered a lateral tibial plateau fracture, according to the U.S. team's medical director Kyle Wilkens.
Knee ligaments connect the thigh bone and lower leg bone. They fall into two categories: cruciate, which are found within the knee joint, and collateral, which run along the side of the knee joint. Vonn injured both her anterior cruciate ligament and her medial collateral ligament, requiring surgery.
Although the injury is serious, the U.S. team released a statement that she would return next season: "She will be out for the remainder of this season but is expected to return to racing for the 2013-14 Audi FIS World Cup season and the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi," they said. An orthopedic surgeon who specializes in ski injuries told The New York Times that it was entirely possible to recover in the time frame cited by the team.
“Typically, the A.C.L. alone will keep her out six to eight months, at least at the high, intense level of skiing she’s used to. The M.C.L. can often heal on its own. And a fracture with an A.C.L. is commonly a minor component," Dr. Tom Hackett told the paper.
Given the optimistic prognosis, it seems unlikely that Vonn will have any complications, but that is not always the case with multiple ligament injuries. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons wrote of such injuries:
These multiple injuries can have serious complications. They can disrupt blood supply to the leg. They can also affect the nerves that supply the muscles of the limb. In severe cases, multiple ligament injuries may lead to amputation.
Still, the organization concluded in their summary that in many instances, injured athletes could return to high level competition following treatment.