Ellie Weiler began snowboarding at the age of seven. As her love for the sport grew, she began to focus on slopestyle. “In 2015, I joined Team Summit, a program for student-athletes who pursue competitive skiing and snowboarding,” said Ellie. “Living in Denver, I was a weekend warrior at first, but as my interest for the sport grew, I transferred to Summit High School and was committed to the program full-time, training five days a week on the mountain.”
For the 2018 – 2019 season, at the age of 16, Ellie competed in slopestyle at a series of events called the U.S. Revolution Tour. In February, during her first practice run at Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania, Ellie landed her first jump and knew something was not right with her right knee. “I was able to ride down, but my knee was swollen and I was unable to fully bend my knee.” The symptoms subsided and Ellie took a practice run the next day. Feeling well enough, Ellie decided to compete just two days after the initial incident and took second place in competition.
Ellie continued to compete for the rest of the season, taking third place at the Mammoth Mountain competition. “I was seeing improvement in the range of motion in my knee, so I felt like my knee was getting better. To help reduce the pain, I started riding switch on my snowboard.” After USASA Nationals in April, Ellie decided to go in to get her knee checked out. Vail Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery is a partner with Team Summit, so Ellie and her parents made an appointment. “I thought my knee just needed to be drained to reduce the swelling.”
During her appointment, she saw Dr. Dorf who suggested she get an MRI just to rule out any major injuries. “I was at school waiting for the text from my dad regarding the results of my MRI. When I found out that I had a torn ACL and a medial meniscus tear, I was completely shocked and devastated. I grew up playing soccer and ACL tears are a common injury among female soccer athletes. I knew so many soccer teammates who suffered an ACL injury and I never thought this would happen to me snowboarding.”
Dr. Dorf directed Ellie to knee specialist Dr. Cunningham. Ellie had a consultation appointment with Dr. Cunningham. Ellie’s mother, Lara Weiler, said, “Dr. Cunningham was very straight forward with us. He was very clear about what to expect during this process–he did not sugar coat anything. He really took the time to answer all of our questions.”
On April 30, 2019, Ellie had ACL reconstruction surgery using a quadriceps tendon autograft and a medial meniscus repair. Surgery went smoothly. “After surgery, the pain level was not bad. The anesthesia and pain medication made me nauseous, so I was just on ibuprofen post-surgery.”
Two days after surgery, Ellie began physical therapy. “I had rehabbed my ankle back in January for a previous injury, so it was nice to work with physical therapists who already knew me. Physical therapy was tough. At first it was so hard to bend my knee 45 degrees. I kept working at it, and eventually I was able to fully bend my knee. Some of the big milestones for me were running for the first time, and then eventually jumping.” In addition to physical therapy, Ellie also worked with a trainer to get her body strong again.