Note: This article has been updated to include quotes from Matt Whitcomb and more information regarding Sophie Caldwell’s injury.
In theater, “break a leg” is an ironic idiom used to wish good luck. While the nordic-ski community has yet to adopt a similar saying, “break an elbow” might become the new well-wishing vernacular after Sophie Caldwell’s second fracture in six months.
The most recent elbow injury came Tuesday, Oct. 7, in Park City, Utah where the U.S. Ski Team is holding its annual-altitude camp. Caldwell was on the way to a run at Park City Mountain Resort with her former coach, Gus Kaeding, when she tripped over a low-hanging cable in the parking lot and came crashing down on her elbow.
Caldwell said that she heard and felt her elbow break, but that she tried to convince herself that it was just her imagination. However, immediately after the fall her elbow was in immense pain and began to swell, so the two decided to head to the hospital.
After an X-ray, Caldwell received the bad news that her elbow had been broken and that she would need surgery to recover from the fall.
Two elbows in one summer could be bad luck, but good luck is having the best teammates and friends in the world.
— Sophie Caldwell (@dophed) October 7, 2014
The American standout from the 2013/2014 season entered surgery at the Park City Hospital later that day, where doctors removed several bone chips and inserted a screw and a pin.
“It’s obviously a huge bummer but Matt [Whitcomb], Simi [Hamilton] and Gus were all in there cheering me on which was nice,” Caldwell said in a phone interview. “There’s not much you can do about it.”
This is the second broken elbow for Caldwell in six months. At a USST camp in Bend, Ore. this May, Caldwell fell on her right elbow while mountain biking. The most recent break occurred on her left side.
After the 24-year-old’s surgery she and good friend Parker Tyler took to Instagram to thank everyone who has supported Caldwell through the injury.
The good news for Caldwell is that doctors estimate that she will be able to return to full training in six weeks, she said. In the meantime, however, she will be in a hard splint for two weeks and plans to ease into a limited training routine.
“I’ll take a day or two doing nothing. The biggest worry right now is falling on it, so at least in the beginning I’ll be doing things like easy hiking or stuff on the treadmill or stationary bike,” she said. “After a little while I’ll be able to run and do some no-pole skiing, but that’s up to me and my coaches to decide when it’s safe.”
“We are still discussing bringing Sophie to the period 1 World Cups as she will be able to begin using poles at that time and there is likely to be early snow in Finland,” he wrote in an email. “We will be conservative with her return to competition, but we will be aggressive with pushing safe training early to maintain her awesome fitness gains this year and to encourage healthy bone recovery.”
Whether or not Caldwell is able to race in period one of the World Cup, it is clear that she is keeping a positive outlook and that her teammates will continue to support her.
“Sophie’s spirit is unflappable and the team is taking good care of her,” Whitcomb said.
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Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.
October 12, 2014 at 10:56 am
If these SMS/USST athletes were more serious about safety this never would’ve happened.