Mike Kimmel

Climber Mike Kimmel gripped a tiny ledge with his right fingertips 50 feet up a sheer cliff. His left hand straining up and across for the next hold.

Pain tore through his shoulder. Kimmel fell. He didn’t fall far—a rope caught him in midair. But the fall crushed his hopes.

An MRI confirmed what he’d suspected instantly: His rotator cuff had torn. Again. “A massive tear,” Kimmel recalls, the third in three years.

The first tear had cost him a dream job as a climbing guide in China. The second sent him back to school for a master’s degree so he could teach.

The third tear might have ended his climbing. But Dr. Peter Millet, a renowned shoulder specialist, performed an innovative surgery. He topped the repair with a collagen patch: a scaffold for regrowing cartilage. Millett then sent Kimmel to Vail Health's Howard Head Sports Medicine. Howard Head is the healthcare provider for the US national climbing, skiing, snowboarding and freestyle skiing teams.

Millett and Howard Head therapists created a new shoulder-rehab regimen for Kimmel. The exercises were tailored for the specific movements and strains of climbing. For months Kimmel worked, each exercise laying groundwork for the next.

Three years post-surgery, the shoulder feels as good as new. Kimmel reports he’s never climbed better.

The third time proved the proverbial charm for Kimmel—and for other shoulder-surgery patients as well. Thanks to innovative surgery at Vail Health Hospital and groundbreaking physical therapy at Howard Head.

The innovative and effective post-op protocols developed for Kimmel are the new standard of care at Vail Health. And they will soon be taught nationwide to help athletes get active again. Faster. Better. Stronger.