Lindsey Vonn, the darling of U.S. Alpine downhill skiing and gold medal favorite, has been trying to recover from a deep shin bruise that might prevent her from skiing in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
She has reportedly tried just about everything to heal the shin that she injured during pre-Olympics training in Austria. She’s done the conventional (stretching), and the more advanced (laser therapy). She even tried a home remedy as she wrapped her leg in Austrian topfen curd cheese – a product similar to cream cheese that’s mainly used for eating but reported to also bring down swelling.
“So far, it seems to be working pretty well,” Vonn said Wednesday, the day she first revealed the severity of her injury. There appears to be little scientific support for using the soft, white cheese to reduce the effects of bruising, but several other U.S. Ski Team members have tried plastering the product on ailing body parts to speed recovery. Jim Moeller, the chief medical officer for the U.S. Olympic Committee, is still doing some research into whether cheese can be a cure.
Topfen cheese is the sort of thing one could make in a home kitchen, or in a particularly well-equipped vacation one; take a half-gallon of milk, heat to between 104-108 degrees, and add a cup of starter culture (which is just milk, scalded, plus plain yogurt or buttermilk). Let sit in a thermos or yogurt maker for about three hours, until sour; then set in a strainer lined with cheesecloth overnight. While it’s more expensive than, say, generic-brand acetaminophen, it’s a relative (compared to surgery and ultrasound and aspiration of blood) bargain. The benefits, like much of home-cooked medicine, are more anecdote than science; that is not to say that the benefits do not exist, only that no pharmaceutical company has funded the research. According to U.S. ski team physician Bill Sterrett, “a lot of the athletes on the U.S. ski team . . . have had a good experience with topfen treatments, which are reported to reduce swelling and stimulate healing. As my mom says, it probably can’t hurt anything.”
If this therapy does indeed prove to be the needed recipe for bringing home the gold, Vonn will be saying cheese in more ways than one. Go Lindsey!