Surviving the Slopes: Students and US Ski Team Join Forces

20151210_USSA-MESS-Course_US-SKI (1)While cruising (and sometimes flying) down the side of a mountain on a pair of skis or a snowboard, accidents are bound to happen. To streamline care for those unfortunate individuals, seven military students participated in the 2015 Medical Emergencies in

Skiing and Snowboarding (MESS) course at the United States Ski and Snowboard Association Conference. Other organizations participating in the course included: the U.S. Ski Team, Vail Valley Medical Center, Vail Valley Resorts, and Eagle County Paramedic Services.

20151210_USSA-MESS-Course_US-SKI (2)The MESS course presented concepts for evaluation of traumatic emergencies in elite level ski and snowboard competitions, discussed event medical support systems for World Cup Events in skiing and snowboarding at international venues, and instructed about management of common medical conditions of the elite ski and snowboard athlete.

20151210_USSA-MESS-Course_US-SKI (4)After a series of classroom lectures and indoor handson scenarios, participants practiced on the ski slopes of Beaver Creek Birds of Prey. Several of these outdoor scenarios involved RVU students playing the role of the patient. One scenario involved a ski racer who fell during a race, resulting in a left-sided pneumothorax—a blunt or penetrating chest injury that causes air to leak into the space between the lung and chest wall.

Third-year student, Anthony Garzone wore the cut suit—human worn surgical simulator, which a sen20151210_USSA-MESS-Course_US-SKI (6)ior surgeon at the scene described as “this is as real as real“—for this exercise as he played the role of the injured skier. Playing the role of the patient and seeing how the physicians treated him gave him a different perspective to keep in mind for when he becomes a physician. SD Garzone also noted that during this course, “[It was beneficial] to be exposed to the possible scenarios a doctor would be expected to treat while on the slopes.”

If you are interested in participating in next year’s ski team event, contact Deidre McGee, Administrative Assistant to the Military Track, at

Photos courtesy of SD Garzone.

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