The State of US Health Care System for Skiers & Snowboarders | Getting an MRI…

Miles Clark | | Featured ArticleFeatured Article
X-Ray of a multi-ligament knee injury

I am a skier.

I injure my knees.

In the 21-years I’ve been skiing full-time, I’ve had 6 knee injuries and 2 knee surgeries.

  • 2013 – Broken Knee Cap + $6,000 Surgery
  • 2015 – ACL Full Tear, Meniscus Damaged, LCL Partial tear, 1cm² Cartilage Off Femur + $2,500 Surgery
  • 2018 – Severe Meniscus Tear
  • 2019 – MCL Partial Tear
  • 2021 – Meniscus Tear
  • 2022 – Not Diagnosed Yet

Health care has ranged from challenging to nightmare for each knee injury and I’ll save the horror stories for another time.

Miles Clark at Jackson Hole, WY in February 2020 between knee injuries. image: sasha motivala

Today I want to tell the story of simply getting an MRI for my knee to find out what the hell is wrong with this damn thing.

  • I started skiing this season on November 2nd
  • I only skied backcountry until November 24th when Alta opened for the season
  • I skied hard inbounds on firm snow that day and when the day was over, my knee hurt
  • Since then I’ve struggled mightily this season
  • My knee is sore in the morning, it swells up to the point where I can only bend it 90º during the ski day, then the swelling goes down at night
  • I can only really ski about 2 runs per day right now and I need the snow to be soft and untracked
  • My doctor thought it might be post-traumatic arthritis and we tried a NSAID treatment that didn’t work
  • I need an MRI to find out what’s going on in there

The USA sees 40 million MRIs per year according to statista.com.

The USA sees 2.5 million sports-related knee injuries in emergency rooms per year according to pubmed.com.

An average MRI in the USA costs somewhere around $2,000.

Before you can get an MRI, you have to pay somewhere around $175 for an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon and in that appointment, they’re going to require a $60 x-ray.

After your MRI you’ll likely be paying around $130 for another visit with your orthopedic surgeon so she can analyze you’re MRI imagery.

MRI machine.

All told, you’re looking at somewhere around $2,400 to get an MRI to find out what’s wrong with your knee.

So what do most of us ski bums and normal humans with high health insurance deductibles do (my deductible is $2,500 and I pay $240 per month in health insurance)?

We skip it.

We fight on.

We have no finite path to recovery.

We suffer both physically and mentally.

We hope it’ll get better with rest, light use, and drugs.

MRI of torn MCL in knee.

All the while, it’s a nefarious mind-game.

  • Is my knee fucked?
  • Am I destroying my knee by continuing to ski/walk/live normal life?
  • Do I have post-traumatic arthritis?
  • Will I need a knee replacement in the near future?
  • Do I need a knee replacement now?
  • Is skiing/riding over for me?
  • Do I have to take up curling now?

What eats away at me most is not knowing and not having a clear path to improvement.

Once you have an MRI you’ll get a solid opinion on what’s wrong and what you need to do to get better as soon as possible.

Miles Clark in British Columbia skiing on a torn meniscus in 2018. image: Andrew Chad Photography

Physical therapy, surgery, rest, drugs, lifestyle change, whatever.

Once you’re on the best possible road to recovery, your brain’s at ease.

Sure, it still sucks to have surgery and not be back to skiing/riding your best for up to 18-months (as it was with my ACL replacement/microfracture surgery in 2015) but at least you fucking know you’re doing the exact right thing to get back on snow as soon as humanly possible!

Every skier and rider will deal with knee and MRI issues at some point if they ride enough.

Today, I called an orthopedic surgeons’ office in Park City, UT.

The altruistic lady at reception told me that I can just go get an MRI without a doctor’s appointment at a unique lab in Salt Lake City and save a ton of cash and clock.

I was elated!

Miles not-so-smartily hucking pillows on damaged meniscus in 2018.  image:  andrew chad

Instead of the normal $2,400 for an MRI and analysis and the subsequent 50+ days it requires to get all this done, I’m going in for an MRI tomorrow and I’ll have imagery and analysis back within 24-hours for only $400!

What the hell is wrong with our health care system?

What can we do to fix it?

Are there more health-care-hacks like this?

The answers are muddled and swathed in so much political, bureaucratic, and money-hungry B.S. in the USA that it’s hard to even bring them up in conversation anymore.

I’m very contented that in my petite universe, there’s a $400 MRI & analysis that skiers and riders can utilize to save themselves money, time, and anguish.

I should know by Wednesday what is wrong with my knee and what I’ll have to do to fix it.

How to fix our health care is a whole other issue…

Where I’m Getting My MRI:

Miles Clark in Valdez, AK in April 2021 right after a meniscus tear in March 2021. image: Jeff Cricco

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5 thoughts on “The State of US Health Care System for Skiers & Snowboarders | Getting an MRI…

  1. you are clueless. gov’t has it’s hand in nearly every aspect of health care. not even close to a free market

  2. The current healthcare system is the result of free market forces. Obama tried to address the problem but the system was too far gone to be salvaged.
    Our healthcare is among the worst of any major developed country in the world due in large part to free market forced.

  3. get gov’t out of health care. free market FTW. look at industries gov’t is heavily involved in – housing, education, health care, etc – all have soaring costs.

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