Rock Aqua Jays optimistic despite having two skiers injured

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Andrea Anderson
Sunday, June 22, 2014

JANESVILLE—Jamie Kumlien cringed when he saw one of his USA Water Ski Show teammates take a knee to the face Saturday morning.

“As hard as it is to experience being injured, it's just as hard to watch a friend ski and get injured,” Kumlien said as he sat on the Traxler Park bleachers with his leg,protectede in a boot, perched in front of him.

His teammate was not seriously injured, but Kumlien, a member of the Rock Aqua Jays, is.

He's taking the summer off from water skiing to rehab a broken tibia.

On April 28, the 21-year-old was water skiing with a buddy in Florida when Kumlien, of Janesville, missed a jump, hit his head and broke his tibia from the impact of the water.

“It's like hitting concrete,” he said.

A few days later he was in surgery getting five screws and a rod put in his leg.

“I wasn't doing anything new, anything exciting,” Kumlien said as he waited for the next water ski team to take the water at Saturday's Mercury Open Water Ski Show Tournament.

It was hard for Kumlien to not ski at the tournament, “but it's fun to see all my friends excel and get better,” he said.

Injuries aren't a foreign concept for Kumlien.

In 2011, he broke his hip.

In 2012, he tore his meniscus and right medial collateral ligament.

In 2013, he tore his left MCL.

Whether it be a bruise, sprain, or tearing a ligament, Kumlien always jumps back into the water and picks up where he left off. He's skied for the team since he was 8 years old.

“I love it," Kumlien said. "It's one of those things where you love it or you don't. It's the thing that's solid for me.”

Kumlien is one of two Aqua Jays out for the season because of injuries.

Aragorn Luiting has a shoulder injury.

Injuries are part of the sport, said Aaron Schoelzel, Aqua Jays show director.

“Unfortunately, there's going to be injuries anytime you're doing something athletic,” Schoelzel said. “Some things just aren't preventable. Like Jamie's accident – he slipped out of the jump and went into the water at a bad angle. There's not a lot you can do.”

Schoelzel has been skiing for more than 30 years. He's seen people never get injuries and people be riddled with them.

Determining the most common water ski injuries is difficult, Schoelzel said.

The majority of injuries stem from freestyle jumps.

“You're landing in ways that your body wasn't meant to land sometimes,” Schoelzel said.

Skiers are traveling at 35-40 mph when they are getting ready to do a trick. When they reach the jump, they're going about 50 mph, Kumlien said.

Maintaining a healthy diet, lifting weights and not doing tricks, jumps or moves you aren't ready for are key in preventing injuries.

The Aqua Jays take every safety precaution.

The water ski team has an average of two or three seriously injured players a year, Schoelzel said. Skiers get banged up, but can still ski. They do have injury-free seasons, he said. 

Losing players like Kumlien and Luiting is hard, Schoelzel said.

“They are what I would call two of my young studs,” he said. “They have a whole bag of tricks they can do and bring a lot to the table. It definitely hurts.”

But the entire team is well-rounded and skiers can shift roles and fill-in when needed, Schoelzel said.

“The Packers say next man up and that's how we are,” he said. “One person doesn't make or break the team. Obviously we want to keep everybody healthy so we have the best team on the water, but we adjust and move on to the next day.”

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