Short-track skater has back surgery

Published: March 25, 2004
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GOTHENBURG, Sweden (CP) – Short-track speed skater Jonathan Guilmette underwent back surgery Thursday to repair a fractured vertebra suffered during last weekend’s world championships.

The surgery was necessary to repair an unstable compression fracture of the 11th Vertebrae suffered during the 1,000-metre final. Screws and rods were inserted during the three-hour operation to repair and stabilize the vertebra and to avoid spinal cord injury. Doctors said there was no sign of paralysis.

“The operation went well and Jonathan is resting comfortably,” national team coach Guy Thibault, who stayed in Sweden to be with Guilmette, said in a statement.

Doctors said Guilmette’s prognosis is good and he could return skating in about three months.

Surgery was required when an MRI exam Wednesday detected ligament damage.

“In view of the fact there was a ligament tear associated with the fracture it was not felt that Jonathan had a stable enough situation with a spinal brace to allow safe transfer back to Canada,” said John McCall, the team’s doctor.

Barring any complications, Guilmette should be walking by Sunday or Monday. It’s expected he’ll be able to fly home in a week.

“He’s in good spirits,” Thibault said of Guilmette. “He realizes that feeling sorry for himself will not help in his recovery and it won’t change his situation. The operation is something that needed to be done.”

The 25-year-old double Olympic medallist from 2002 was injured in the 1,000-metre final when he tried to take the lead coming into a curve before the final last lap. Guilmette and Seung-Jae Lee of South Korea both went down. Guilmette crashed first into the boards and the Korean then slid into Guilmette.

Lee was disqualified from the race as well as the remainder of the competition.