For most professional athletes, their venture starts at a very young age. The average professional athlete usually figures out they are good at something by age seven, and from there, they begin to hone in on that talent. By the time they are in their teens, they are excelling at the sport, and by their 20s and early 30s, are peaking. While this isn’t the case for all athletes, it certainly isn’t the path that Teri Larson took.
However, Teri isn’t your everyday athlete. For starters, she is a chemistry lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and this alone keeps her pretty busy. When she isn’t teaching, she loves the outdoors and staying active. It wasn’t until she was in her mid-20s that a close friend introduced her to water skiing. She tried it for the first time and loved it immediately. By the time she was 30, she tossed the skis and began barefoot water skiing…and the rest is history.
While this sport is considered water skiing’s most daring and ultimate challenge, it became second nature to Teri who began to compete in barefoot waterskiing for fun at age 32, and by 38, she was competing in the 2009 Senior World Championships in New Zealand. During that competition, she brought home a bronze medal in tricks and a silver medal in the jumping event.
Today, at age 42, Teri is a serious contender for the title of world champion! She ranks second within her age group, and 18th in the world over all. She also just landed the top spot on the US Water Ski Team and is hopeful to make her mark at the world championships that will be held in August of 2012. In that competition, she is ready to pull out all the stops in several events—the slalom, trick, and jump—and prove to the world that age doesn’t always have to have boundaries. Before Teri can think about winning at the world championships, she has another challenge she must first conquer: rehabilitating her recently repaired left shoulder.
It was in July of 2011 that Teri took a hard fall on the water and tore the rotator cuff in her shoulder. Even though the shoulder caused her pain, she continued to ski and stay active and did not seek immediate treatment. Eventually she had to have treatment for her torn rotator cuff that involved surgery to repair the tear and to fix the torn labrum. Unfortunately that surgery did not work out as planned and Teri was left with ongoing pain.
“I was in more pain following the surgery, than before I went in. I told my husband that I knew something was not right and that it was totally messed up and getting worse. I seriously felt disabled and my pain was increasing by the day, which should have been the opposite following my surgery,” said Teri.
Desperate to get her shoulder fixed and to have it done right, she began searching all over the U.S. for the best orthopedic shoulder surgeon she could find. She joined a forum on shoulder injuries on the Internet and quickly noticed that Dr. Peter Millett’s name was being tossed around by other patients. Teri did her due diligence and called several of the surgeons that were recommended to her, but Dr. Millett’s name kept coming up and when she contacted him, he not only responded promptly but also made the extra effort to talk to her personally and discuss her injury.
“It’s kind of like a big dream, but right after my first call with Dr. Millett, I was on a plane headed to Vail. When I arrived at Vail Health, I had an MRI done and within a couple of hours Dr. Millett entered the room, shook my hand, sat down next to me, and very calmly told me that my rotator cuff surgery did not take and that I essentially had a failed rotator cuff repair that needed to be surgically re-repaired,” said Teri.
Just a short couple of days later, Teri underwent surgery. The surgery itself proved to be more intricate than the previous procedure. During the repair, Dr. Millett used advanced arthroscopic surgery to secure the torn rotator cuff tendon back to its proper position. This procedure was completed so that the lost function of the shoulder could be fully restored. Patients who are healthy, active, have strong bones and healthy muscles are candidates for a revision rotator cuff repair after a prior failed rotator cuff repair surgery (all of which Teri met the criteria for).
Now several months post-op, Teri feels fantastic and the difference is night and day following her first surgery. The pain is gone; her range of motion is fully restored, and she is once again strength training—baby steps towards getting her back on the water and ready to compete in the World Championships!
“I really felt lost after my first surgery. I didn’t know who to turn to or where to go for help. I’m thankful for stumbling upon a group of people who were going through similar circumstances as me and that they were able to provide me with Dr. Millett’s information and actually vouch for him. My entire experience with Dr. Millett and his entire staff has been seamless, professional, and to the highest skill set I have ever come across. I truly feel I’m on my way to a full recovery thanks to him,” said Teri.
Teri continues by saying, “This experience changed me; most of the orthopedic shoulder surgeons that I have dealt with are just cut and dry, in and out, and that is all you get. Dr. Millett has the bedside manner, personality, and the medical skills all wrapped up into one package. He has restored my confidence and he gave me my life back.”
UPDATE: Teri Larson has won the overall title at the 2016 Barefoot Waterski World Championships.