Profitable technique: Johnny Collinson climbs again to the highest

Almost from birth, Johnny Collinson has proven that no obstacle is too high to overcome.

By the age of 4, Collinson had already scaled Mount Rainier in Washington. Before his 18th birthday, he scaled the highest peaks on every continent, becoming the youngest person to scale the Seven Summits.

Today, Collinson, one of the world's top freestyle skiers, is one step closer to accomplishing another type and perhaps his most challenging ascent: He's regained his top form after nearly rupturing most of his knee in a horrific mountain crash almost two years ago would .

For the Red Bull athlete, known worldwide for wowing social media and YouTube viewers with death-defying 360s, half-pipes and other freestyle feats, the goal was to get both feet back on top of the powder-covered mountains to bring since he was sidelined with an injury that required multiple surgeries, grueling months of inactivity and plenty of uncomfortable rehab.

The catastrophic 2021 crash happened on a fun day of skiing in the mountains of Lake Tahoe. It was one of Red Bull's trademarks, the Red Bull Raid. While preparing to do a 360° — a move that involves “jumping off a cliff,” doing a 180° and skiing backwards — Collinson recalls accelerating faster than expected in extreme icy conditions. After a clumsy start, Collinson said he hit the nearest cliff at a bad angle, crashed and rolled at over 40 mph before coming to a stop. But the damage was done.

"I immediately felt an explosion in my leg," he recalls. "And then I kept falling down the mountain and I could kind of feel my leg flapping around trying to keep it in place. But I could tell other things were cracking.”

To make matters worse, his skis never came off, causing what he describes as a lever-like effect that generated extreme power and more trauma during the perilous descent.

He was rushed to an emergency room in Salt Lake City, and the prognosis was as bad as the pain: His knee was blown out — patellar tendon, ACL, MCL, PCL and meniscus all torn — this came shortly after recovering back-to-back. rear right cruciate ligament tears both in 2018 and 2019.

"My patellar tendon stretched until it broke, which I think is pretty unusual," he says. "My surgeon said he had never seen it before."

w, more than 18 months later, Collinson is getting closer to a return to competitive sport in vember. His strategy for success was a mixture of accepting the risks of his extreme sport and practicing patience while sticking to a plan or rehab and training. After almost two years, Collinson is a little over a month away from reaching his goal.

"My goal is to be on the snow when the resorts open here in rth America," says Collinson. "So that's the end of vember. So I have some work to wrap everything up. And then it's about time.”

Accept the risks with the rewards

The moment I took off and started doing my 360, I could just feel the rotation wasn't quite right on the terrain I was going to land on. It was like, that's not really what I want. And once I landed I was just trying to manage the situation but things went so fast. I just drove onto the cliff and then everything exploded.

Those split seconds where it's slow in your head, I can still imagine that slowness of the moment. I knew an injury was imminent and again it felt like this wasn't going to end well. But to be honest I accepted the risk by doing things like that. I know these things can happen, so when it happens, all I have to do is step up to the plate and deal with the mental stress and the physical stress.

There's no plan B up there when you're in the air and you're not really doing your best. Still, you put in all the training and all the work to look your best. And even then, sometimes all the work only gets you so far.

Rewind and reassess the situation

I watched the replay, which was nice to watch because I had imagined it in a way in my head. So it was nice to see what the crash actually looked like, this time from an outsider's perspective. It's harder for me to watch others get hurt, but to watch myself for some reason [go down the mountain] wasn't that bad - I had already injured myself so I knew the result. So watching the replay became more of a clinical breakdown of what went wrong. It was like, "Oh, that looked bad.: Or, "That didn't go right."

Honestly, the hardest part was getting injured again after really trying to dial in after two more cruciate ligament tears. I was working to get stronger and making sure I felt good and ready for whatever was to come – but then this crazy injury hit me. That's kind of the hardest part. It was like, "What did I miss?" Or, “What could I have done better?” But hindsight is 20-20. You just have to put up with the bad and just keep working to be your best.

Courtesy of Redbull

Johnny Collinson trusts the process (however long it will take)

I really wanted to ski again. And no one specifically said no. But…

From a time perspective, it takes almost a year for your bond to be strong again. So that's kind of a baseline for what I was going to do, I had an ACL in October, no matter what we get in those nine months, no matter how good I feel, no matter how strong I feel. And then, after those nine months, it's like, OK, when can we go skiing again?

It's been almost eight weeks that I haven't been allowed to bend my leg at all, use my hip flexor or core to allow the patellar tendon to heal. This basically keeps all your quad muscles in place. When that broke, my quad muscles snuck into my leg. So in the surgery, the doctors had to somehow pull them back down and put enough tension on the patellar tendon. And then we had it straightened and immobilized. And we had to let that tendon heal without flexing.

Yeah, so I pretty much just sat there for about eight weeks. I did some basic upper body exercises in my basement. I sat on the floor and did kettlebell halos, bicep curls, overhead presses—anything to get the blood moving. After getting permission to bend my knee, it then attempted to regain that range of motion.

Time and patience will help heal

We did scraping, cupping, heavy rolling, everything possible to loosen the muscles and tendons. So we worked on it for about a month and a half without getting too far because of all the scar tissue.

That's when I had to go to a manipulation where they kicked me out and then the doctor just cranked out the knee to break up the scar tissue. That was a game changer. Immediately afterwards I was able to get on the spin bike, almost straight home after the operation. I spun for about two hours. I wasn't worried about Watts, just getting the movement back.

That was the beginning. After five months I wanted to start moving it a bit, which was still a bit difficult because there was no blueprint for this injury. When I started to recover and tried to build muscle I still had no ACL or PCL and still had a lot of displacement in my knee which still limited physical therapy.

At the same time, we worked knowing that another operation was imminent, which would be another setback. The second operation in October 2021 was actually good for me mentally. It used to be difficult trying to work when you knew you were going to have another operation. Here it was easier to devote oneself fully to physiotherapy and rehabilitation.

Keep it strong and simple

For most of my life I've been doing something like basic training. At one point I was actually training more specifically for rock climbing. Then my first ACL injury led me to really get into the training aspect and get ready for ski season and just explore the fitness world a bit.

My family has always been very active, so since I was a kid I used to play around with pistol squats and slackline – we always trained for alpine ski races. So I always had good, full freedom of movement.

This is important when it comes to skiing and other action sports because there are so many external forces acting on our bodies - we do really unnatural things with our bodies. So it's pretty important to have as much mobility and then strength in that range of motion because if you only train a certain range and say you're going to ski a big enough jump, that's going to force you out of that range of motion. So it's pretty important for me to take care of that mobility.

As for the training philosophy, I would say mine is to keep it simple. You see a lot of people on the internet coming up with these really wild, crazy workouts. And I think if you have a goal, that's great. But for me, the basics work really well.

Single leg workouts like Bulgarian squats are high on my list. When it comes to ski-specific exercises, I also like single-leg RDLs and good morning. You get more balance and stability work when you stand on one leg. You want strong quads, but you also want strong hamstrings, strong glutes, so addressing those would be my recommendation.

Johnny Collinson is cautiously confident

I mean I would be totally lying if I said I didn't think about the injury being snow related.

But I think the biggest part for me was putting in all that work in the gym and knowing I'm trying to turn every stone and I'm dedicating as much time as I can physically. So the thing is, my body is good - we gave it everything we could in the gym. And now I'm going back to skiing confident that we did an excellent job of getting my leg strong again. And then it's all about getting that time in the snow, knowing you'll be a bit hesitant for the first few days. Every time I do something, it's like hitting a jump for the first time again. It is therefore worth considering whether it is worth taking this risk at this point in time. It might not be worth doing a 360 again right away. I may need a lot more time just skiing before I do another trick.

Follow Johnny Collinson on Instagram @johncollinson!


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