A winning attitude

An aggressive goal and a supportive surgeon helped Jim Plumb overcome obstacles and win a state division title
February 29th, 2016

Trials racing season is on the horizon, and Jim Plumb is excited to jump back on his motorcycle to defend his Colorado Trials Senior Intermediate first-place ranking.

“When I first met Jim, he said he was a very competitive athlete, but he had to explain to me what exactly motorcycle trials riding was,” said Dr. Sunil Jani, an orthopedic surgeon at UCHealth Longmont Clinic.

Trials riding is a non-speed event on a specialized motorcycle. It’s slow-paced but still dangerous, as riders maneuver over obstacles such as boulders and logs. It’s a balancing act (there is no seat) because to win is to keep your feet off the ground and make it through the course.

Jim Plumb
Jim Plumb is excited to jump back on his motorcycle to defend his Colorado Trials Senior Intermediate first place ranking, which he is able to do because of aggressive goals and a supportive UCHealth surgeon. Photo by Josh Barrett, for UCHealth.

“It’s like playing chess,” Plumb said. “It’s the kind of sport where you need to plan ahead; each move is made strategically.”

Plumb was ranked No. 1 in the state in the senior intermediate division — and had only three events left in the 2015 season — when he needed a surgeon like Jani.

“He was constructing a course when he slipped off his bike and landed on his left leg with all the weight of his body and the bike going through his knee,” Jani said. “He had pain, swelling and painful clicking in that leg. The MRI came back and it confirmed a meniscus tear.”

Plumb, by the way, is not only an avid competitor but also a trails master who helps configure the trials courses. He loves the sport, and he wasn’t about to give it up — no matter what the doctor said.

“A lot of times, when you tell a doctor you do a motorcycle sport, they are going to say, ‘Well, that’s what you get,’” Plumb said. “But before we even started talking about treatment, Dr. Jani asked me what my goals were. He wanted to learn more about my interest in the sport.”

“That’s my care philosophy,” Jani said.

“I’m not the person to say what is and what isn’t important to my patients. My patient tells me what their interests and goals are, and it’s my job to get them back to that as safely and quickly as possible,” he said.

There are two menisci in each knee joint, and they serve like O-rings between the thighbone and shinbone, cushioning and stabilizing the knee joint, Jani said. A torn meniscus can prevent the knee from working properly.

“An unstable tear can be like a wrench popping in and out of the gears of the knee joint,” he said. “And it can increase the likelihood of degeneration of the cartilage that lines the knee. Wearing out of the lining cartilage leads to arthritis.”

The surgery to fix a torn meniscus is one of the most common orthopedic procedures, Jani said. But it wasn’t necessarily the procedure that impressed Plumb — it was Jani’s sincere interest in getting Plumb back to doing what he loved.

Plumb made a game plan with Jani, set goals and planned the necessary steps to achieve those goals — including aggressive rehabilitation. And Plumb was able to compete in the final event of the season and hold onto his No. 1 ranking.

“I remember when I got hurt,” Jani recalled of a knee injury he had while in college. “I was so worried that my orthopedic doctor would tell me to stop playing — ‘if it hurts when you do that then stop doing it.’ But my doctor understood it was important for me to continue to play my sport, and he eventually became my mentor as I pursued a career in orthopedic surgery.

“I don’t save lives, but I do save lifestyles. I ask my patients to share their stories, and once I understand their point of view and goals, we work together on getting them back safely and quickly. That’s how I was treated when I was a patient, and I couldn’t have appreciated it more. To be able to help Jim get back to doing what he loves was an amazing experience.”

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.