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Roope Tonteri journey to Sochi 2014

Posted on February 6th, 2014

We’ve been treating Finnish Winter Olympian, Roope Tonteri at our Manchester and Wilmslow clinics, here’s how he made it to Sochi 2014, against all the odds.

Words by Darren Roberts, Harris & Ross’ High Performance Manager:

When the international number flashed up on my phone – I thought it might be one of the athletes competing overseas who needed to contact me. When I answered it actually turned out to be the Red Bull athlete manager from Finland calling about one of his athletes who had hurt himself.

Going over some brief details it was an arm break, which didn’t seem that bad. However this was late November 2013 and the athlete was hoping to go to the Winter Olympics at Sochi just 8 weeks away. I asked for any x-rays, images and as much information as possible to be sent to me straight away. The e-mails arrived and immediately I could see we were going to have to deal with something quite challenging! As luck would have it, all of this came through whilst I was at an orthopeadic sports medicine conference and our upper limb surgeon Adam Watts was in attendance, so I could ask him for a broad opinion straight away.

The initial prognosis was not good for a return to sport for Sochi, but we specialise in highly challenging athlete injuries and people come to us for that very reason. Within a matter of days the athlete was on his way to us from Finland to start a week of intense residential rehab. The athlete in question was Double World Snowboard Champion, Roope Tonteri.

Roope arrived just two weeks post surgery, the main problem was this was his second surgery having already broken his arm in August. The level of fixation in his arm was considerable.
The first surgery to fix a break in August 2013. The second surgery in November 2013 showing the difficult spiral fracture from 2nd injury

As with any of the athletes who come to us, we prioritised what we needed to do:
• Return to Function – get range of motion back and using the arm;
• Return to Fitness – start building strength globally, not just in the arm;
• Return to Sport – end stage rehab, building confidence in the athlete that the injury has healed.

As soon as Roope arrived we took him to see Dr Adam Watts to get an opinion and direction from a medical perspective. Roope was immediately told to get rid of his sling, and ceremoniously threw it in the bin!

Roope was quite surprised he was immeditately out of the sling, but this always features in our management of injuries – which can look aggressive. But you have to move to improve, and his arm needed as much encouragement as possible to heal.

It was an intense 7 days, designed to challenge every aspect of Roope whilst encouraging his arm to heal. Using things like exogen, compex and GameReady to accelerate recovery and healing as well as all the manual therapies.

A typical day for Roope was:
08.30 – exogen & compex muscle stimulator
09.30 – Gym session, lower leg strength
10.30 – Break
11.00 – Hydro conditioning session
12.00 – Lunch
13.00 – Treatment – physio
– electro accupuncture
– massage
15.00 – break
16.00 – Gym session – trunk strength
17.00 – finish


As an Olympian we pushed Roope hard – asking him to work at the limit of his capacity with everything, always with the over-arching goal of accelerated healing for his arm.

Roope’s week soon came to and end, and he was sent back to Finland with a comprehensive programme to follow before returning to us in January 2014 to repeat the same intense residential rehab week. It was at the end of this 2nd week Roope would have a CT scan and consultation with Dr Adam Watts to hopefully be told he was fit to compete at Sochi.

See more images on our Pinterest page

Roope flew out to us again, and just as before we worked him hard with every trick we had available to us to get him as fit and strong as possible. This second week was even more intense than the first as we really pushed his overall capabilities, which meant testing his arm.

This subtley built confidence that his arm was in fact totally fine, and ready to compete.

At the end of the week we had the big meeting with Dr Adam Watts where he reviewed the CT scan from that morning, Roope was visibly nervous as we went into the room.


The final meeting

Despite the catastrophic injury to his already recently broken arm, despite having only 7 weeks to get him signed off in time for Olympic selection – Roope’s hard work and the work of the team paid off and he was clear to compete! We went immediately from the surgeon’s office to the indoor slope to get Roope on a board and ride for the first time in 2 months!


Roope returned to Finland and informed the national team he was available for selection, followed by heading to the nearest snowpark to start riding. We were all overjoyed when we got the message Roope was selected for the Olympic team, and headed to Sochi with the Finnish national to continue his Olympic journey.

06.02.14 Roope qualified Second overall for the Winter Olympic Finals at the weekend.

Watch a video of Roope at Harris & Ross here.

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