Life after sport: Kelly VanderBeek's story after severe knee injury

The alpine Olympian and World Cup medalist will be speaking at the Wood Forum on Knee Injury this Saturday

Laurie Wang - 23 October 2015

(Edmonton) Two months before the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, alpine skier Kelly VanderBeek blew out her knee. Clocking 144 km/h, many believed VanderBeek was destined for the podium in Vancouver.

"Nobody wanted to tell me how bad the injury was. I remember the conversation with the medical team. So it was a complete dislocation? And I broke it too? The IT band also came off with a chunk of bone? So I also tore my PCL, ACL and MCL?" said VanderBeek, who is the keynote speaker at the Wood Forum on Knee Injury this Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Newcap Radio Stage at West Edmonton Mall. Hosted by the University of Alberta's Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine in partnership with the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health, the Wood Forum on Knee Injury connects active Albertans, athletes and health-care professionals with some of Alberta's top health experts in sports-related knee injury.

"I wasn't worried about whether I would race again - I was more concerned about life after skiing," the World Cup medalist explained. "Would I be able to play soccer with my kids in the backyard?"

After multiple surgeries and countless hours of rehabilitation, VanderBeek was able to win at the North American level, however, once racing on the World Cup, she realized her knee couldn't sustain those stresses.

"But you know what? I was OK with that," said VanderBeek.

VanderBeek credits the health team for helping her get to where she is at today.

"I had access to incredible people - experts in their fields - who motivated me to get healthy. I am thankful for the physicians, surgeons, physiotherapists. They're your best friend when you're facing serious injury and a lifetime of arthritis."

That's why VanderBeek has such a personal connection to the Wood Forum. "It's a forum open to the public that gives them that same access to the experts. The people on the panel are some of the country's leading researchers and experts in sports injury."

"Our province has world-class researchers and clinicians who are committed to providing prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services," said Linda Woodhouse, PhD, holder of the Dr. David Magee Endowed Chair in Musculoskeletal Clinical Research at the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine. "The Wood Forum is a way for us to connect the latest and greatest in research and treatment to the public. It's getting information to those directly involved and impacted by bone and joint conditions."

The Wood Forum is an initiative supported through the Wood Joint Research Fund. This fund honours the memories of Dr. John and Mrs. Christena Wood. Their original commitment, made in 1994, supported the Wood Professorship in Joint Injury Research. A major initiative of the Professorship was the creation of annual public forums. These forums in Calgary were designed to enhance public awareness of the causes, consequences and prevention of joint injuries, and to provide the public with the opportunity to meet and discuss latest research findings and treatment options with leaders in the field. The Wood Research Fund continues this legacy.

Since 2013, the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, along with its partners, brought the Wood Forum to Edmonton. Led by Linda Woodhouse, the Wood Forum was created as part of an Osteoarthritis Knowledge Translation Dissemination Grant.

Today, VanderBeek has successfully transitioned to life after sport. "I live a normal, healthy and active life and I fully accept where I'm at. I can't bike for more than one and half hours now, and that's OK."

After retiring from competitive skiing in 2013, VanderBeek works as a broadcaster, motivational speaker and photographer. She is also mom to two-year-old Cooper, who she looks forward to playing soccer with in the backyard.

"He already loves to kick the ball around, and he's pretty good at it too!"

Register here for the Wood Forum on Knee Injury on Saturday, October 24 at 10 a.m. at the Newcap Radio Stage at West Edmonton Mall. Hosted by Global Edmonton Sports Reporter Quinn Phillips, the Wood Forum's panel of experts include: David C. Reid, Linda Woodhouse, Carolyn Emery, Tannin Schmidt and Jackie Whittaker.


The Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta

As the only free-standing faculty of rehabilitation medicine in North America, the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine's vision is to be at the forefront of knowledge generation and scholarship in rehabilitation. Through excellent teaching, research and service to the community, the Faculty is committed to enhancing quality of life, promoting participation and autonomy, and improving function for citizens in Alberta and beyond.

A research leader in musculoskeletal health, spinal cord injuries, common spinal disorders (back pain), seniors and dementia and speech-language disorders, the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine aims to inspire the realization of the full potential of individuals, families and communities. The three departments, Occupational Therapy (OT), Physical Therapy (PT) and Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) offer professional entry programs. The Faculty offers thesis-based MSc and PhD programs in Rehabilitation Science, attracting students from a variety of disciplines including OT, PT, SLP, psychology, physical education, medicine and engineering.