For young boys across the world, throwing their first football, shooting their first hoop and catching their first baseball, are milestones that most parents consider just an everyday part of growing up. If one stays at it long enough, they most certainly will improve over time. Some kids give up. Others take the sport to new levels. For it is these boys who believe that to fully excel at a given sport, two key elements must be present:
Tenacity and passion.
This is such the case for one extreme athlete, set on skis at the ripe age of 2-1/2, and never looking back. Ten years later, Marc-André Tarte would find himself on a snowboard for the very first time and it was a moment that he knew would set him up for boarding greatness.
While most of Marc-André’s teenage friends spent their days hitting the mall with friends, going to movies and worrying about their career paths, Marc-André was busy figuring out how to fly higher, turn more rotations, spin and zip seamlessly through a pipe ride. Having spent countless hours riding both rough and manmade terrains, he began to enter tournaments…and win.
Today, at the age of 31, Marc-André has more than 17 years experience on a snowboard and has spent the last decade as a professional athlete in the sport. When he began winning contest after contest, sponsors began to take a serious look at him and the rewards since have been countless. Aside from traveling the world and competing in events in such destinations as China, Russia, Taiwan and Cape Town, Marc-André has spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours training to reach new personal goals and exceed all limits that this thrilling sport has to offer. Spare time spent jumping off treacherous mountainsides and reaching new heights on manmade pipes all over the world most definitely have put him on the top of his game.
So it was not a surprise that 10 nations looked to Marc-André to help train their athletes for the 2010 Olympics. Included in this mix, was the Silver Medalist from Finland, Peetu Piiroinen—an athlete Marc-André trained just two weeks before the Olympic event.
So how does someone with such drive, such passion for an extreme sport, and such zeal to reach new highs stay intact in one piece? Well, he doesn’t.
“I’ve racked up so many injuries over the course of my career that I felt selling giant inflatable airbags for freestyle sports training was going to be my new passion. In all seriousness, injuries are just a part of this sport and in my opinion, the only downside to choosing this as a career,” said Marc-André.
While Marc-André has sustained numerous injuries in the past, one in particular sent him to the surgery table in 2009. “I unwillingly following a 19-year old snowboarder off of a cliff in Japan and partially tore my meniscus and my ACL. Several doctors in Europe said I needed surgery, but I decided to mend the injury on my own. It worked; but then not long after, I went to New Zealand and jumped the biggest jump of my life (a switch 540 over 140 feet). That was a perfect jump. But on the second try, I came down wrong and in the days and months that followed I kept re-injuring my knee over and over again. Another visit to Japan, I was whipping through the Japanese forest, when wham! I completely tore my ACL. I knew in my heart surgery was probably in my near future.”
Marc-André visited a doctor before arriving home and was told that he should have surgery to repair his ACL injury. Upon arriving to the US, he visited Dr. Peter Millett almost immediately.
“Over the years of injuries, I have gotten to know really good doctors and reputable establishments. For my ACL injury, it seemed like a no-brainer to go where all the other professional athletes go—The Steadman Clinic. You know you’re not in Kansas anymore when you see the signatures on the pictures and t-shirts that hang on the walls from professional athletes—many of them legends in their own right.”
Dr. Millett concurred that surgery was needed and recommended the procedure take place as soon as possible. In order to hasten his recovery, within 48 hours Marc-André was wheeled into the surgery center at The Steadman Clinic and Dr. Millett successfully repaired the ACL injury.
“Marc-André is an elite-level professional snowboarder and came to me during the height of his career with a complete rupture of the ACL. He also had a grade 4 chondral lesion of the medial femoral condyle and a complex tear of the posterior horn of the lateral meniscus. Because of the complexity of the injuries to his right knee and in order to get him back to normal quickly, we did not delay surgery. I see a lot of elite athletes and in many cases such as Marc-André’s, surgery is the only answer in order to repair the knee and get them back to a pre-injury status,” said Dr. Millett.
“Marc-André’s surgery consisted of right knee ACL reconstruction with tibialis anterior allograft, with repairs of both meniscal cartilages, microfracture of medial femoral condyle grade 4 lesion and chondroplasty of both the patella and trochlea. Considering the severity of his injuries, an excellent repair was achieved thus leaving us with very high hopes that his snowboarding career could resume back to normal.”
After surgery, Marc-André went through strict rehabilitation and spent a great deal of time nursing his knee back to health through passive motion movement, ice, rest and eventually strengthening exercises.
Although the surgery for Marc-André was inevitable and necessary, he is a firm believer that surgery alone is never the answer. Commitment to the post-surgical rehabilitation is equally important. “Individuals have to work long and hard before their knees catch up to the top physical form they were pre-injury. When you can undergo intense hikes, bike rides, climbing and swimming, you will be ready to charge like never before but the key is for your entire body to be active, strengthened and at its peak agility in order for your operation to be a success. Thankfully, Dr. Millett was there to help recover my knee when I no longer could help recover it myself,” said Marc-André.
“Dr. Millett is a world-class surgeon. I definitely feel that I am on my way, once again, to becoming the world-class athlete I used to be.”