Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Schwarzenegger breaks femur in ski accident

California governor recovering after fall on Baldy


California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a part-time Wood River Valley resident, broke his right femur Dec. 23 while skiing on Bald Mountain. Photo by Willy Cook

By GREG STAHL

and JODY ZARKOS

Idaho Mountain Express

Dec. 23 was Arnold Schwarzenegger's turn to become a Bald Mountain statistic.

The California governor, Hollywood actor and part-time Ketchum resident was taken off the mountain in a ski patrol toboggan after he reportedly tripped over his ski pole, fell and broke his right femur near the half pipe on Lower Warm Springs, a gentle ski run marked "Easier" on Sun Valley trail maps.

The governor's injury created nationwide buzz as newspapers and television stations scrambled to compile holiday-weekend reports. Following an hour-and-a-half surgery in California Tuesday morning, Schwarzenegger, 59, was cleared to resume his duties as governor.

"When we checked Arnold into the hospital on Christmas night he was looking forward to his surgery," said Schwarzenegger's wife, California First Lady Maria Shriver. "He has been in good spirits. He asked when he could get back to work, and he's looking forward to his inauguration next week. Our children and I are grateful for everyone's support and prayers."

According to reports, the accident sounds to have been something of a fluke. Skiing with family members and friend Adi Erber of Ketchum, Schwarzenegger simply slipped, according to Erber.

"His pole got caught underneath his ski, and he tripped over it," Erber said. "He fell on his ski pole, and the impact broke his femur."

Erber, a fellow Austrian and ski buddy of Schwarzenegger's for the last 18 years, said the accident occurred around 12:15 p.m., and the governor fell on his right side.

Schwarzenegger was transported off the mountain by toboggan and taken to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center by ambulance.

Sun Valley Ski Patrol members declined to comment about the accident, but one did say, "I do know he was really tough about it. He was tough."

The ski patrol's response time was excellent, said Sun Valley Co. spokesman Jack Sibbach. The injury was reported at 12:09 p.m., the patrol was on-scene at 12:14 p.m., and Schwarzenegger was handed off to ambulance crews at 12:49 p.m.

He "didn't seem to be in a lot of pain," Sibbach said.

Mike Lloyd, ski patrol director, said his on-mountain safety and medical crews generally respond to about 1.75 calls per 1,000 skiers. To that extent, Schwarzenegger's accident roughly fits the trend. Of 15,000 skiers on the mountain from Friday through Monday, the ski patrol received 18 calls. That translates to a relatively safer-than-average 1.2 accidents per 1,000 skiers.

According to a news release from the California governor's office, a surgical team performed an "open reduction internal fixation" on the upper part of Schwarzenegger's thigh.

"The surgery involved using cables and screws to wire the two main fragments of the governor's broken femur bone back together," said Dr. Kevin Ehrhart, the orthopedic surgeon who conducted the surgery.

"The governor will remain in the hospital for three days, as is standard for this type of operation," Ehrhart said. "Recovery will take approximately eight weeks, and I expect the governor to fully recover. The governor is not in a cast and will use crutches to walk while his leg heals."

Schwarzenegger is said to be a more-than-competent skier. In December 2001, he was given a slice of immortality on the mountain that later helped break his leg.

The short, usually mogul-riddled ski run formerly known as Flying Maid—on Baldy's Warm Springs side—was renamed Arnold's Run. The name change came at Shriver's 2001 request on or near her husband's birthday, July 30.




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