Why ‘life is dangerous’ for injury-prone Alpine skiers

Updated 1:16 PM EDT, Thu November 2, 2017
Lindsey Vonn crashes out on a training run ahead of the World Cup women's downhill in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.
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Story highlights

A third of skiers suffer serious injury each season

Most are familiar with long process of rehab and recovery

Lindsey Vonn explains why "life is dangerous"

(CNN) —  

Life as an alpine skier is risky business.

According to governing body FIS, a third of all skiers suffer a serious injury during the winter season – hardly a surprise when downhill racers reach speeds of up to 95mph.

All the medals, accolades, and training sessions in the world can’t make you resistant to career-threatening injuries.

Just ask Lindsey Vonn, America’s most decorated skier.

She has 77 World Cup wins and claimed Olympic gold in 2010, but Vonn jokingly calls herself “the pin-up injury girl” – and she’s got the medical history to prove it.

“I’ve had two ACL [tears], an MCL, I don’t know, five tibial plateau fractures – I can’t even count how many of those on both knees,” she tells CNN Alpine Edge.

“And I think multiple concussions. And I fractured my arm which is now a long, metal rod. Life is dangerous for me.”

03:06 - Source: CNN
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’It’s not the speed that kills you…’

Knee injuries are especially common for skiers.

Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal suffered a horrific crash in Kitzbühel, Austria, last year, and has since undergone intensive rehab to get his knee back to full strength for this season.

“The toughest part is the first part just walking around on crutches,” says the two-time World Cup winner.

“And then you go and ski, and you’re like, guess what? Skiing is the most horrible thing we can do to this knee.

“It’s not the speed that kills you, it’s the sudden loss of it that does.”

READ: Lindsey Vonn determined to race against men

READ: Five reasons to be pumped for the ski season

A rare breed

When a skier gets knocked down, they resolutely pick themselves up again. The road to recovery is often long, but it’s the hours of rehab and physio sessions away from the slopes that make them a rare breed of athlete.

It takes guts to thrown yourself down slopes at break-neck speeds, but it takes just as much courage and commitment to get your body race-ready again.