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Richard Banthin

Patient Heads Back to the Slopes

By Abby Sinnott

His first time skiing out west in Salt Lake City, Utah, Richard Banthin woke up in the middle of the woods feet away from the slope he had just been skiing down, with no idea of how he ended up there.

"I woke up in the woods with people yelling at me from above on the chair lifts and couldn't figure out what had happened," says Banthin, a 38-year-old project manager at a communications company. "I spent my entire life skiing in the North East and wasn't aware of how badly I'd been injured."

But Banthin knew he wasn't in good shape when a short time later, the ski patrol arrived and he lifted his arm to wave goodbye to onlookers and his hand flopped. He had suffered severe injuries to his right hand, spine and right knee. Luckily, Banthin was wearing a helmet while skiing, which he says absorbed some of the impact of his fall and literally saved his life. He was then airlifted to the University of Utah where doctors worked to stabilize him.

When Banthin returned to San Francisco, he visited UCSF Medical Center where a team of orthopedic surgeons worked together to treat his injuries, and to return Banthin to his normal level of activity. Dr. Vedat Deviren provided follow-up care on Banthin's spinal injury and Dr. Lisa Lattanza treated his hand fracture.

And in May 2005, Dr. Christina Allen, an orthopedic surgeon at the UCSF Sports Medicine Clinic who specializes in shoulder and knee injuries, particularly those affecting the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), performed surgery on Banthin's right knee, which had suffered an ACL tear.

The ACL is one of the two ligaments located within the center of the knee joint that cross over each other as they run diagonally between the thigh and leg bones. The ligament provides stability to the knee and prevents it from "giving way" during sports by limiting the movement between the bones.

Banthin underwent arthroscopic surgical reconstruction, which is performed using small instruments through small incisions in the knee. In the past, ACL reconstruction was considered a "major" procedure because the knee incisions were very large and the recovery was very painful. However, because so much of the surgery can now be performed arthroscopically—without large incisions and excessive trauma to tissues — in most cases, it is an outpatient procedure and patients can return home the same day.

"Because I can look in the knee with a small camera, or arthroscope, to help guide my surgery, I can perform most of the surgery through much smaller skin incisions," explains Allen. "The arthroscope can be used to help guide me when I drill the bone tunnels in the femur and tibia — where the ACL replacement graft is placed—so I don't need to open up the whole knee to drill the tunnel."

It has taken Banthin one year to fully recover from his ACL tear and other injuries. But as soon as he could, he was racing sailboats and working out at the gym. "In hindsight, my injuries were probably a good thing," admits Banthin, "because I have gotten into the habit of staying fit and exercising more than I ever did in the past." And his injuries haven't deterred him from skiing. As soon as the first snowfall arrives, Banthin plans to hit the slopes.

Abby Sinnott is a freelance writer in San Francisco.

Story written in December 2006.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Sports Medicine Center
1500 Owens St.
San Francisco, CA 94158
Appointments: (415) 353–2808
Main: (415) 353–9400
Fax: (415) 885–3862

Hand & Upper Extremity Center
1500 Owens St.
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353–2808

Spine Center
400 Parnassus Ave., Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94143-0332
Phone: (866) 81-SPINE or
(866) 817-7463
Neuro-spine Fax: (415) 353-2176
Ortho-spine Fax: (415) 353-4047

Patient Experiences