Gov. reveals details of ski injury

Times Staff Writer

He made millions playing an indestructible action hero in the movies, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sounded altogether mortal as he talked for the first time Wednesday about the pain and frustration he has felt since his holiday skiing accident.

At a news conference where he released his new budget, Schwarzenegger told reporters that since his surgery two weeks ago he has been in continuous pain.

“The operation was a very complicated operation,” he said, “and I don’t think I can ever remember having had pain -- ongoing pain, 24 hours a day -- like after this operation.”

In a statement put out last month after the Dec. 23 accident, the governor’s doctor described the surgery planned for Schwarzenegger as routine.

Schwarzenegger had previously said nothing publicly about his accident, and his staff had refused to confirm reports that the governor tripped and fell while standing on a mountain slope in Sun Valley, Idaho.


Adi Erber, a ski instructor who was with the governor at the time, said Schwarzenegger’s pole got caught in one of his skis, causing the fall. Schwarzenegger was then carried down the slope on a toboggan and taken to a hospital.

Asked for his own account of how the accident happened, Schwarzenegger offered a few details about his complicated medical history, which has included steroid use, a heart valve replacement, a torn rotator cuff and broken ribs. He said that he has also had an artificial hip put in -- a procedure that, he maintained, helped cause the leg break.

Schwarzenegger said that because he was moving “at a very slow speed,” his ski stayed on.

Had he been moving fast, he said, the ski would have popped off, probably sparing him any real injury.

“I had an artificial hip that was replaced around five years ago,” he said. “Because it was vulnerable, the ski torqued the leg, and it broke the femur because of that. If I were to have that accident at 50 mph -- and many times I’ve crashed at that speed -- nothing happens.

“So this is what the unfortunate thing was.”

Soon after the injury, speculation bubbled up that the governor’s steroid use might have left his bones weakened, making him more susceptible to a break. Schwarzenegger has admitted using steroids when he was a champion bodybuilder.

The governor’s office released a statement from his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Kevin Ehrhart, addressing the steroid question.

“Any suggestion that Gov. Schwarzenegger’s injury was sustained as a result of anabolic steroid use is wrong and has no basis in fact,” Ehrhart said. “His bone was completely healthy and rock solid.”

Normally upbeat in his public appearances, Schwarzenegger said the accident has left him shaken. He has looked thinner and somewhat drawn since the surgery.

At his inauguration last week, First Lady Maria Shriver clutched the governor’s arm as he took the oath of office -- as if holding him up -- and handed him bottled water afterward. Shriver also attended the governor’s budget address.

Schwarzenegger suggested Shriver has been at the receiving end of his darkened mood.

“So it’s really annoying to me, and believe me, there’s nothing I hate more than having an obstacle like this. So this is very frustrating to me. It’s very tough on my wife.

“When I get frustrated and have those obstacles, I’m very angry a lot of times,” he said, “and so I’m working through all of this and trying to get rid of this problem as soon as I can.”