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Lindsey Vonn Suffers Partially Torn ACL in Crash

Nov 8, 2013; Vail, CO, USA; Lindsey Vonn (USA) speaks at a press conference following team training at Vail. Mandatory Credit: Paul Bussi-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Bussi-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2013

The comeback of Olympic champion skier Lindsey Vonn has been postponed, as Vonn's publicist stated she has partially torn the ACL in her right knee after a crash in Colorado on Tuesday.

According to The Washington Post's Cindy Boren:

She has “a mild strain to her right knee, a partial tear to her right ACL, minor facial abrasions and scapular contusions from her fall,” according to her publicist, Lewis Kay (via the Post’s Barry Svrluga).

Vonn, who was hurt Tuesday in a training run at Copper Mountain, Colo., will rest for a few days, then “pursue aggressive physical therapy and will determine the next time she is able to compete after seeing how she responds to the treatment,” Kay said.

John Torres, a medical expert for 9News in Denver explained what the next steps could be for Vonn.

Lindsey Vonn partial ACL tear, surgery depends on how stable knee is. Surgery more likely because sport depends heavily on knee. #9News

— John Torres (@DrJohnTorres) November 20, 2013

Vonn suffered an MCL and ACL tear in the same knee along with a fractured fibula in a crash at the 2013 World Championships in Austria back in February. The injury was serious enough that Vonn had to be airlifted off the slope, and she missed essentially the entirety of the 2013 season.

Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden noted the relatively short amount of time since that injury occurred.

Lindsey Vonn's original ACL/MCL tear was 9 months, 16 days ago.

— Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) November 20, 2013

Now the question is whether or not Vonn will be healthy enough to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. There's not much time left between now and February, and as Torres noted, having a healthy knee is vital for a skier.

Bleacher Report sports injuries lead writer Will Carroll offered insight on the potential impact of Vonn's injury on her Olympic hopes.

There are two questions with Vonn's new knee injury. First, how significant is the new sprain in her reconstructed ACL? Second, what is strained in the knee?

If the new sprain is a low-grade sprain, meaning a very small tear on the ACL, then it is possible that she will heal in the time remaining before Sochi. It will cut into her prep time significantly, but Vonn would be able to compete. 

With a Grade II sprain, it would be less likely that she could compete. Vonn and all skiers need a stable base for skiing and given their bent and leaning "tuck" position, it is hard to imagine that she could do so with a compromised knee or with a brace.

The strain is also significant. If it is the common patellar tendon strain, it will likely heal on about the same schedule as the ACL given similar severity. The combination can be complex, adding problems to the rehab and setting the timeline back by as much as a month. 

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press thought the story of Noelle Pikus-Pace demonstrated that even the most catastrophic of injuries can be overcome.

If you think Lindsey Vonn can't be Sochi-ready, perhaps you should familiarize yourself with Noelle Pikus-Pace's story.

— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) November 20, 2013

Pikus-Pace had her leg snapped in two by a runaway skeleton sled during preparations for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Doctors told her that her Olympic dreams would be over forever, only Pikus-Pace was able to beat the odds and finished fourth in the skeleton in 2010.

Although the circumstances between the two are different, Vonn at least has hope that if she attacks rehab in the right way, she can recover in time for Sochi.

The 29-year-old has won one gold medal at the Olympics and boasts another four overall titles at the World Cup. She's also the fifth female skier and second American to win all five disciplines at the World Cup.

Should Vonn not be able to compete, the event would be losing one of the most decorated skiers in history.

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