“The allure of the biathlon? The rapid switch between power and concentration”
At the age of five, she emulated her big sister and put on skis for the first time – for cross-country skiing at that time. Today she loves the rapid switch between skiing and shooting. 31-year-old Karolin Horchler is in the German Ski Federation’s squad for women biathletes. As a competitive athlete it’s particularly important to be able to give 100% power all the time. But persistent shin problems often stood in Karolin’s way. Her options: either give up or get medical help. She decided to continue and have surgery on both shins. Now Karolin is ready to go at full power. Her reliable companion during the rehabilitation? The medi Rehab® one* medical compression stockings. Whether it was during therapy exercises, sport practice or during the break – they support her whenever it is necessary and give her a feeling of security.
Karolin, shortly before the end of the 2019/ 2020 biathlon season, you had an operation on your shin. Why did you take this decision?
“I’d been having shin problems for many years already – particularly when conditions were difficult, i.e. World Cup stages with artificial snow. My muscles would stop working, I couldn’t lift my foot up any more or place the skis correctly. I nearly had to give up the pursuit in the Finnish Kontiolahti biathlon. So after the season had ended I got in touch with the specialists at the Dresden University Centre for Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery. Then everything happened really quickly: I was an acute patient. After a few tests they diagnosed compartment syndrome. The operation took place the next day.”
A diagnosis of compartment syndrome – what exactly did that mean for you?
“The fasciae are the sheath surrounding the muscle. When the muscle is worked, the muscle gets larger. In my case, however, the fasciae were too narrow, meaning that there was no longer any clearance between the fasciae and the muscle. The pressure grew to be intense, and my muscle could no longer be correctly supplied. This resulted in signs of paralysis and an extreme sensation of pressure. During the winter, it was so severe that my shins were completely swollen and at times I no longer had any feeling in my legs.”
How did you feel after the surgery?
“For the first night and on the first day after the operation, I was not allowed to stand up; afterwards, I was again able to put a little weight on the slightly swollen legs. After two days, I was discharged. On the outside, I had a four-centimetre-long scar on each leg and inside a very large wound – on both shins my fasciae were divided from the ankle joint to the knee. That’s why the rule for two weeks was: Put your feet up and take it easy. As I normally go on holiday after the season, the rest phase felt at least a little similar.”
Therapy instead of training: What was your everyday schedule like?
“Owing to the contact limitations during corona, I did many exercises on my own, but I had a therapist to support me if I had any questions. At the beginning, the plan included manual lymph drainage and light exercises. After four weeks, the training became more sporty – I could start again with jogging, Nordic walking, cycling and various stabilisation exercises. After six weeks it was time to really “fire up” – I was allowed to strap on my roller skis again; it was great! Now we’re training for many hours, including intensive exercises.”
How do the medical compression stockings medi Rehab® one* contribute to your rehabilitation?
“I already received the Rehab one* shortly after my surgery, to reduce oedema, because my legs were slightly swollen. The swelling in my legs went down thanks to the medical compression stockings, and so I could start the rehabilitation measures sooner. Now I’m wearing the Rehab one* during roller training – in the short knee stocking version. If loading is particularly high during the training, I also leave it on during the lunchbreak, to alleviate swelling or hopefully to prevent it from occurring in the first place.”
You therefore wear the medi Rehab® one* all the time?
“Exactly! It depends completely what my day was like – after six hours of going full speed, I still have a lot of water in my legs and need the Rehab one* just for rehabilitation. It ensures that the swelling goes down, my legs feel lighter and I can make a flying start again in my training.”
What is important for you in a medical aid, and what do you like particularly about the medi Rehab® one*?
“Very clearly: the touch of the fabric. For me, the feel of a medical aid is particularly important. I really like the Rehab one* material – it’s wonderfully comfortable and makes donning easier. The merino plush fabric in the mid-foot area is also very soft. The Rehab one* is different to other compression products from medi and CEP that I have worn. I can feel the medically effective pressure that runs from the bottom of the leg upwards. It feels very soft, and yet I know that it’s doing its job very well and I can rely on it.”
How important is the design of a medical aid to you?
“Function is the most important thing for me. Although I tend to prefer plain colours such as black, I also like the look of the Rehab one*. It even matches my green roller shoes.”
You’ve been wearing compression products for many years. What do you like about compression and why do you wear the products?
“The Rehab one* is my first medical compression stocking following an operation. For training, I used to wear the running socks by CEP for my roller and skiing sessions. I particularly like compression products when I’m travelling.”
For 25 years, you’ve been travelling to competitions all over the world. What was the best moment in your career to date?
“There were very many really lovely moments – the highlight was my first World Cup medal last season. I won silver in the women’s relay with the other girls. It was a fantastic reward – not only for the preparation of the season but also for 25 years as a competitive athlete, with all its highs and lows.”
Biathlon takes up a lot of your time. Do you have any other hobbies?
“The cool thing about biathlon is that I can use many leisure activities as training at the same time. I like to go hiking and can combine that with a training session. As a competitive sportswoman my whole day is made up of biathlon. When I take a little break, I try to switch off, have a free evening or enjoy time with family and friends.”
Competitive sports requires great dedication, willpower and passion. How do you motivate yourself on a daily basis?
“Actually, I don’t need to motivate myself. Simply the fact that biathlon is my job and I’ve come so far is an enormous motivation for me. I still have areas that I need to fine-tune. That’s why I challenge my body every day afresh. The way I approached my shin problem shows how high my motivation is. For years, I tried to stay on top of it with physio or by changing my shoes and skis. Then I had two options: stop competing or do something so that I could give 100 percent again. It wouldn’t have been necessary to have an operation for a normal everyday life, as I didn’t have any discomfort. This therefore shows how important biathlon sport is to me and how much I still want to give in future years.”
Dear Karolin, we wish you great success and a continued good recovery! Thanks for talking to us!
* medi Rehab® one is a round-knit medical compression stocking for compressive care of the lower limbs, mainly for prevention and treatment of postoperative and post-traumatic oedema and general swelling.