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Mountaineer Reaches Peak with Aid of Surgeon


January 13, 2011  |  

Climber Prepares for Denali in 2011

Triathlete Ben Horne has recently climbed more than 25 mountain peaks, from Half Dome and Mt. Whitney to Longs Peak and Mt. Rainier. He’s run the Grand Canyon from rim to rim and back, and completed Ironman Arizona: a 2.4-mile ocean swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. Race after race, nothing slows Ben down ─ not even the surgical reconstruction of his elbow following an accident.

Ben Horne

Ben plans to climb Mt. McKinley in June 2011.

“On a long-distance training ride, the lane I was cycling in was blocked by a pedestrian. I avoided the pedestrian but to do so, couldn’t prevent a fall,” said Horne, 30, whose elbow bone was crushed into five pieces upon impact.

“The radial head of Ben’s elbow was completely shattered,” said Reid Abrams, MD, chief of hand and microvascular surgery at UC San Diego Health System. “Because he is young, and an athlete, the team wanted to preserve his natural bone. We also wanted to avoid a prosthetic replacement which is commonly used but unpredictable in terms of longevity. As a cyclist, I understood the flexibility and stability that Ben would require for cycling, climbing and swimming well into the future.”

Reid Abrams

Click on the above photo to watch Dr. Abrams discuss Ben's case.

During a delicate two-hour surgery, Abram’s team re-built Benjamin’s elbow with a series of strategically placed plates, screws and pins woven with wire. After four months of healing, a second surgery was performed to remove hardware and to reduce bone adhesions to improve range of motion. Two years later, due to surgery, physical therapy, and Ben’s tenacity, he can now fully flex his elbow, mobility which he needs while climbing technical routes on 14,000-foot peaks.

“For mountain climbing, you have to be able to pull yourself up under rigorous conditions,” said Horne, an economics graduate student at UC San Diego.  “Since my surgery with Dr. Abrams I’ve been able to climb, no problem. I am grateful for the results. For me, climbing is more than a sport. It’s a feeling of tranquility, of being close to God.”

During high-risk climbs, mountaineers test both their physical and mental limits to overcome often daunting stretches of rockface, ice and snow, sometimes moving only inches at a time. All off trail, the prolonged combination of intense focus, cardiac exertion and low oxygen can be risky but rewarding.

Ben Horne

Triathlete Ben Horne is able to cycle again after surgery at UCSD Medical Center 

“As a surgeon, and someone who has recovered from his own hand injury after a biking mishap, I understand the need to get back to doing what you love,” said Abrams. “I encourage every athlete to continue to pursue their passion after an accident. With the right surgery and follow-up care, the results can be amazing. Ben proves it every day.”

Horne continues to set his sights high.

He plans to climb Mt. McKinley in Alaska in June 2011. Referred to as “Denali” or “The Great One” the mountain stands 20,320 feet tall and is the highest mountain in the United States.

“You can always climb further and do more,” Horne adds.

The Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at UC San Diego Heath System specializes in sports medicine. Dedicated to providing excellence in clinical care and research, the department is a pioneer in cartilage restoration and transplantation, joint replacement, foot and ankle, and hand and upper extremity surgery, trauma care, and spine surgery.

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Media Contact: Jackie Carr, 619-543-6163,

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