Jossi Wells hopes surgery will extend career

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2013
Jossi Wells
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FIRE ON ICE: Jossi Wells in action at this year's Winter X Games in Tignes, France.

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Top New Zealand freeskier Jossi Wells has undergone experimental stem cell surgery to try and alleviate his long-term knee problems.

A trailblazer for the sport and the eldest of the talented Wells freeskiing clan, the 23-year-old has battled knee pain since he was 15-years-old.

Wells underwent stem cell surgery in the patella tendons of both knees in May.

The procedure involves taking cells from the healthy areas of his knees and placing them into damaged tissue.

"It's been something I've had to deal with for my whole career, but in the last few seasons it's just gotten worse and worse and worse. I had a breaking point recently and decided to look a bit more deeply into it, at what remedies were out there."

Wells' coach and father Bruce Wells discovered stem cell therapy and after some research it was decided to take a punt on the relatively new procedure.

"The whole team behind me looked into it and it looked like a good idea. Right now it's a little too early to tell how successful it's going to be, but I've been back on the snow now for two weeks, I've been taking it really easy and where I'm at now is pretty much where I was at before I had that stuff done, so I know it's not going to make it any worse."

Wells said his knee problems extended to everyday life.

"There hasn't really beeen a day since I was 15 that it didn't hurt. Just walking down and up stairs, I can't sit with my knees in one position for more than five or 10 minutes or they start aching - which is really sweet on airplanes. I've learned to deal with it and I try not to think about it too much."

Wells said the strategy was something of a gamble.

"There hasn't been a crazy amount of tests on it, so that's why I was a little bit - hesitant isn't quite the right word - but I definitely wanted to find out as much as I could, but there wasn't a lot out there. From what I found out, it's something that wasn't going to make it any worse, so I figured I might as well give it a shot."

Wells, the 2010 overall world freeskiing champion, has been told it will take about 12 months for the process to achieve its full benefits.

"Hopefully that will go by really quickly and I'll be good to go for the American season. The New Zealand season is not as important for me and I'm really hoping to be really going by December and really hammer it."

Wells will take part in a strong freeski halfpipe field at next month's Winter Games being staged in Central Otago, which includes World Cup events that double as Winter Olympic qualifiers.

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Freeskiing's slopestyle and halfpipe events will be contested for the first time at the Sochi Olympics next February, and New Zealand has qualified spots both events.

- The Southland Times

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