SkierPT here again. I had the opportunity to have Tom Wallisch answer questions for me regarding his injuries and rehab especially considering returning to skiing. I hope to spread information like this from both the Physical Therapist (PT) and the skier/patient perspective. Tom is the skier who inspired me to get into freestyle skiing with his steeze and afterbang. I hope you enjoy his perspective!
Tom Wallisch aka the Pretzel Man:
1.) Introduction: Name, Age, Level of skiing, home mountain
Tom Wallisch, 32, Expert, Seven Springs PA
2.) What initially got you into freestyle skiing?
I love skiing and the joy of learning new tricks, catching air, and grinding rails.
3.) With freestyle skiing being a such high impact sport, I am sure there are many bumps, bruises, and injuries along the way. Can you highlight any significant injuries you have sustained?
Left and Right ACL repairs. Broken Collarbones, Torn MCL, Broken Shoulder Blade, etc.
4.) Out of those listed, which injury was the most difficult for you, both physically and mentally, in terms of return to skiing?
Definitely the ACL reconstructions. ACL recovery is the most physically and mentally taxing to endure. The rehab process is long (6+ months) and involves lots of physical therapy and exercise that seems boring and monotonous. Rebuilding muscle, balance, strength is time consuming and required so much discipline. After 3-4 months you feel great again and still have so far to go before skiing or doing anything dynamic. That was mentally the hardest part.
5.) What physical aspects and what mental challenges occurred during your rehab process?
Physically the rehab is long and involves a lot of Gym time, something I personally don’t love. For me I love to exercise outside and with sport so spending time in the Gym and lifting weights was mentally super challenging.
6.) Speaking of rehab, how was the physical therapy process? (timeline, PT personality, what worked, what didn’t work for you), etc. Honest opinion!
The process has been great for me. I have had access to the Center of Excellence with the US Ski Team and a great partnership with Allegheny Health Network during both of my major surgery rehabs. Having a team of doctor, PT’s, and trainers you like and trust is the most important part of rehab. You need to work hard and take everything seriously which is only possible with a team you trust. The timeline was long but there’s no way to change that, working hard through the boring stuff (range of motion, band exercises, leg press) and getting to agility and dynamic exercises made rehab fun. For me it was most important to work with at PT that understood my sport and what I needed to rehab for.
7.) How was your skiing affected once you were cleared to return to ski? Did you change style of ski or boot?
Nope. I obviously tried to ease back into things slowly over a few weeks/months but in the end skied the same as I always would. With the right PT, a good work ethic and lots of time you can rebuild your body back to where it once was and beyond.
8.) How is your fitness routine now? Did it change after your first major injury?
After my first major surgery I definitely started to take things more seriously. Being smarter about days off, stretching, warming up, and staying strong. Still to this day I prefer to train outside and stay active in other sports rather than in the gym. But sometimes gym days are necessary.
9.) How often do you stay in touch with your PTs or trainers for updates or advice?
Every month or so. More frequently when I’m dealing with pain or any sort of issue.
10.) Do you have any advice for those going through rehab themselves?
Keep your head down and work hard! Best advice is to take everything your PT says seriously, even the small and seemingly insignificant exercises.
11.) What is your favorite skiing memory?
Too many to name just one. But hosting the Steel City Showdown this season at Seven Springs, PA was definitely a ski dream come true!