Lindsey Vonn airlifted after crash, needs surgery, out for season

February 6, 2013 9:41:38 AM PST
Olympic gold medalist and downhill superstar Lindsey Vonn is nursing a fractured knee after crashing on a super G run in Austria.

Pictures of Lindsey Vonn

Vonn launched 500 feet down the course, then she lost her balance in the air, caught her right knee on impact and slammed face first into the slope.

The American Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion lay on the snow for 12 minutes before being airlifted off the Austrian Alps to a hospital.

"She sustained an injury to her right knee, which included a tear to the ACL and MCL ligaments, in addition to that suffered a tibia plateau fracture," said Tom Kelly, U.S. Ski Team.

Vonn said Wednesday that she plans to compete in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which start in 12 months.

"I am grateful to my fans for the outpouring of support, which has really helped me stay positive," Vonn said in a statement. "I can assure you that I will work as hard as humanly possible to be ready to represent my country next year in Sochi."

Lindsay Vonn will not ski for the entire 2013 season. Vonn, who's record-breaking skills are matched by her model-like beauty, is no stranger to injury. She's battled through injuries in six straight major championships. In Novemeber , she was hospitalized with an intestinal illness.

"Now, her thoughts are on getting back and through whatever is necessary medically after this," Kelly said.

Lindsey Vonn's larger-than-life persona has always invited speculation. Off the slopes. a fascination with who she *may be* romantically linked to; the latest rumors are golf great Tiger Woods. She says they are friends. On the slopes this time, it's all about the 2014 Olympics just one year away.

"Nobody should be throwing a retirement party for her just yet. For Lindsey Vonn, she can certainly recover from this injury," said one ESPN analyist.

Vonn will now head home for surgery in Colorado. U.S. Ski Team physician William Sterett was with Vonn on the snow after the crash on Tuesday, then at a Schladming hospital where she was airlifted.

Vonn was released from the hospital late Tuesday and returned to the team hotel.

"Lindsey is doing well. I just finished seeing her," said Sterett, who has been treating Vonn since she was a child. "She's in good spirits."

Vonn tore her anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in her right knee and broke her leg.

"The fracture is called an impaction fracture," Sterett said. "It should not require any surgery. It just needs to be non-weight on crutches."

Sterett would not set a return date to skiing for Vonn until after the surgery.

"She'll be heading back to Vail, and I will be doing surgery on her knee early next week," Sterett told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Other doctors have speculated that Vonn could be looking at six to eight months before she's back on skis.

The team said the four-time overall champion will be back for the next World Cup season and will compete at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"The hospital staff did an excellent job with X-rays, MRI," Sterett said. "She had very good care and they were very, very helpful."

Sterett said Vonn was "a little banged up, and sore everywhere," without going into details on her bruises.

"She's in good spirits and upbeat. She's intently focusing on the next step and the next step now is getting from point A to point B, with point B being next season," he said. "She's determined and upbeat."

Sterett left open the possibility of Vonn requiring more than one surgery, saying that with these types of injuries "that's always a possibility." However, the plan for now was only one operation.

Due to intense media attention, Sterett would not say when Vonn will leave Schladming.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.