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Valley doctor also helps U.S. Ski Team members

by Nancy Hamlett

While he was in high school in Carson City, Peter Costa raced slalom and grand slalom with the ski team.

Now Costa is a doctor for the U.S. Ski Team, and he helps skiers re-achieve racing form after an injury.

This is the second year Costa has joined the 50 doctors from throughout the United States who provide medical services to ski team members. The doctors are all volunteers.

Costa recently returned from a trip to World Cup ski jumping in Germany and Austria.

“It was my first time to Europe, and until you’ve seen ski jumping in person, you have no idea how popular it is there. There must have been 50,000 people at the bottom of the hills, drinking and singing and waving banners. It was a sight I will never forget,” said Costa.

The U.S. Ski Team is made up of eight different teams in men’s and women’s alpine and freestyle, Nordic, snowboarding and ski jumping categories. Almost any week, one of the teams competing or training somewhere in the world.

Costa said ski team doctors meet every year in Vail, Colo. and attend the first training session of the year at Mammoth Mountain every May. Sometimes the ski team will send racers to consult with the doctors at their local offices, but each doctor is expected to travel with the ski team to at least one event per year. Costa selects the trip he wants to make and pays his own expenses.

“Plane fare, lodging, meals, everything, but we do get to keep the frequent flyer miles,” said Costa. “But seriously, I get a lot of satisfaction out of it.”

Costa’s specialty is spine, back and neck injuries, and he says that more than 50 percent of the U.S. Ski Team members have back problems.

“Either from a major back injury or chronic pain,” said Costa, adding that the various injuries and problems he sees with the ski team helps him tremendously in his practice.

“Sports accidents provide a broad spectrum of what to expect after an injury,” said Costa. “My private practice isn’t made up of high-level athletes. It is a 90-year-old grandmother or the injured worker, hurt on the job. However, the experiences with the ski team can provide valuable information for my patients, and can be motivational. I can use the skier as an example that the injury doesn’t have to keep them from doing things.”

After Costa graduated from medical school and finished his residency in 1993, he practiced medicine in Oregon. However, because he is from Carson City, and his wife of 10 years, Inge, is from the Carson Valley, they spent all of their available time traveling to this area.

“We loved the area and five, six, maybe even seven to 10 times a years we’d make the trip,” said Costa. “We finally decided to move back and enjoy the things we missed.”

They moved to the Valley five years ago and Costa joined the orthopedic team of doctors at Tahoe Fracture and Orthopedic Medical Clinic. The Costas have one daughter, Carson, who is five years old and attends Minden Elementary School.

“Yes, she was named after the town,” said Costa.

The Costas enjoy any activity that takes them outdoors, including biking. In 1993, they biked across the U.S. and Canada, traveling 4,000 miles in 60 days. Costa said it was a trip of a lifetime.

“We carried two little bags. You learned to live with what you have,” said Costa, who said that the trip started with a jog up to Canada and across Canada to the Great Lakes. In upstate New York, they became the center of attention when the hometown newspaper ran their story, and from there, they cycled to Maine.

The summer of 1993 was wet and miserable. That was the year of the 100-year floods on all of the Midwest’s rivers.

“We tried to camp, but at least half of the time we rented a motel so that we could dry out. I think we have both agreed that when we do it again, we’ll bring the credit card and spend every night in a motel,” said Costa.

Costa and Inge are planning another cross-country trip, but this time Carson will come along.

“But for right now we’ll focus on smaller tours like Oregon and the California coast. We’ll go cross country when Carson is in middle school,” said Costa.

In the meantime, the family backpacks, hikes and skis when they can find the time.

“And we enjoy our time at home,” said Costa. “This area called to us and brought us home. Now we are taking the time to enjoy it.”