|Greg Minnaar has loved speed since he was a little boy.
The unassuming, personable downhill mountain biker won his first World Downhill Championship in 2003 when he was 19. He won it again in 2012 and in September 2013, he took his third World Championship title in front of his home crowd in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
As a professional sportsman who pushes his body to the limit, Greg is no stranger to injury. His body is full of scars and he has broken both his collar bones. But he smiles and shrugs it off saying that realistically, a collar bone can heal in two weeks if it is plated properly – it’s all about finding the right surgeon.
And he certainly needed a skilful surgeon after taking a fall during a practice session while competing in the 2013 UCI Downhill World Cup in Leogang, Austria. It was a real set back when the near full rupture of his anterior cruciate ligament and a meniscus tear put him out of the race. Despite missing the final round, Greg considered himself lucky to hold onto third place overall on points but he knew he would need surgery and he felt anxious about how long it would take for him to recover.
“The hardest thing for me is to find a doctor who understands what I do, I realised I needed to give myself enough time to heal but I had the 2014 World Cup to get ready for so it was a real challenge for me. Not only do I need to get back as soon as possible but I need to be fixed 100% so I must find the right surgeon for the job.”
Greg consulted orthopaedic knee surgeon Dr Richard von Bormann who repaired his torn meniscus and reconstructed his ACL. When we asked him to comment on the case, Dr von Bornmann smiled wryly:
“Like all the elite sportsmen I have consulted with, Greg’s main priority was how quickly he could get back. Even with an injury to the knee as significant as an anterior cruciate ligament rupture, the first question out of his mouth was when can I ride again doc? When can I race again?"
||Dr von Bormann explains: "With high end athletes not only is sport their livelihood, it’s what keeps them sane. The standard questions you get with all top athletes are about timelines: When can I start this, when can I do that? - All the stepping stones back to getting them competitive and from there ‘getting me back to as good as I was before’. These questions are always easier to answer when you walk away from the surgery feeling more secure about what you’ve done and that what you’ve put in, or what you’ve reconstructed is powerful, securely fixed and in the correct position."
“This is why, when I do an ACL reconstruction I use the Smith & Nephew Endobutton which is well documented in more than one large series scientific study to give not only the best early fixation, but the least latent displacement or lengthening of the graft. On the tibial side which is the other point of fixation for the new graft, I use the Smith & Nephew interference screw. This is a PEEK screw which is designed in such a way that I can put in a larger screw than the hole I drill because it cuts itself into the bone without touching the graft and without cracking. So it gives me more secure fixation than any other of the techniques available, and yet quicker surgery than using some of the more technical fixation methods that are out there.”
“Feeling secure about the fixation technique allows me to let them push just a little further ahead from what I’d normally be comfortable with. Greg is a really good example of an elite athlete who in fact hasn’t got a rev limiter so he’s always pushing ahead and pushing just that much too hard and of course that’s part of what makes them tick and part of what makes them so good at what they do”.
April 2014: Greg is back in the race
Greg placed 3rd at the UCI Downhill MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg in April 2014 - for him, exhilarating to be racing again with the crowds he enjoys so much cheering him on! This was the 1st of 9 rounds of the 2014 World Cup and a podium finish is an impressive start for any elite rider in this competition, particularly after coming back from injury.