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1995 Dislocated hip, bruised femoral head, Torn MCL
The Injury “I was in second place at Kitzbühel. I went off the last jump. No one pre-jumps it, but I tried to pre-jump it to win the race and paid the price, big-time. So I post-holed it going about 80. I just stuffed my hip into the snow and rammed my femur up into my hip socket.”
The Rehab “I didn’t go to the hospital because I wanted to just tough it out. I didn’t want them to yank me off the circuit. So I went home and took six weeks off, and I never went to the hospital.”
The Lesson By the time spring rolled around, Fleischer couldn’t even walk on his leg, so he got an MRI. “They just handed me crutches and said, ‘Stay off your legs for eight weeks minimum.’ My femur was just black. So that’s an ailment that’s been with me since that day, because I was an idiot and toughed it out. I thought I was a tough kid.”
1999 Dislocated shoulder, torn rotator cuff
The Injury “I went to a race, and the course was set way too straight into this one turn. I tried to pull it off. I caught my arm in the fence going about 70 mph and just yanked it right out of the joint. We’re at a Europa Cup, so it’s like this bogus race. We don’t have a doctor there, so I just lay on the ground face down with my skis on and I just start pounding my arm. Finally it goes back in. I did a couple of arm swings, and I’m like ‘Oh, I’m all right.’ I skied off and got to the finish line, and my arm was so torn out that every time I let it relax it would just fall out of socket on its own.”
The Rehab Fleischer’s season was over. He flew back to the States for surgery and rehab at the Steadman Hawkins and Howard Head clinics. “Getting range of motion back for my knee was like torture, but on a day-in, day-out basis from a comfort standpoint, I’d say that my shoulder hurt a lot more than my knee,” Fleischer says. “They have to cut through a lot more body tissue, so your neck feels like someone’s giving you the Vulcan neck pinch for a month straight.”
The Lesson “I’d been on the team for seven full years at that point, so I just viewed the injury as an opportunity to have my first year off. I was able to get stronger than I’d ever been because I could work out for 10 months straight before I went into the next ski season. I only skied like eight days that whole year. But in the first race out of the blocks, I was fifth.”
2001 Cracked vertebrae, severe lower-back pain
The Injury “One day at Mt. Hood, I suddenly went from never having a back issue in my whole life to feeling like someone stuck me with a knife in my lower back. And my hip was hurting on top of that, partly because I had never rehabbed that previous injury.” Fleischer discovered the root of the problem was his equipment. He’d canted his boots four degrees out for better skiing on Mt. Hood summer snow. “So I skied really well there because I was the only moron out there with my boots canted four degrees out. It worked really well in theory, but I didn’t make the adjustment back to normalcy when I came back to Colorado. Whenever I put my ski on edge, I had so much edge so fast that my body couldn’t take it. I was crippling myself.”
The Rehab Fleischer switched his cant back to zero degrees. Once he’d restored proper alignment, he was able to rehab his back to full health.
The Lesson “Sometimes you have to experiment and figure out for yourself what the problem is. I discovered what was going on when I decided to try switching boots. That didn’t come from a chiropractor or doctor or coach or anyone else. That was just me figuring it out on my own.”