Loftus returns to slopes after motorcycle crash in September
December 21, 2018 | Lynchburg, Va.
Riding his motorcycle on Sept. 7, Liberty University junior Jeff Loftus was side-swiped by a taxi, flipping him off his bike and leaving him with injuries to his right knee, left ankle, and back.
"At the time, it felt like both of my legs were snapped in two," said Loftus, a second-year member of the Flames' ski team. "The doctors said it could have been a lot worse. If I wasn't wearing a helmet, I would have died."
He ended up with fractures but no ligament damage, so he did not need surgery but was confined to a wheelchair for five weeks. The accident displaced discs in his spine, exacerbating a back injury sustained while attempting a 1080-degree spin before a Big Air competition last February.
After the Sept. 7 crash, he couldn't put weight on his legs for more than a month and still experiences discomfort while standing or sitting. While his arms became stronger wheeling around campus to his mechanical engineering classes, he lost about 20 pounds from his 6-foot, 1-inch, 180-pound frame.
Loftus' recovery was accelerated by daily physical therapy from Club Sports Assistant Director of Sports Medicine Kyle Swanson in the LaHaye Ice Center's Athletic Training room. Swanson applied ice and heat therapy and put Loftus through range-of-motion stretching exercises as well as strength conditioning in the muscles around his right knee and his left ankle.
|While his wife, Paige, looks on from the doorway of their home in Lynchburg, Jeff Loftus rolls his wheelchair past a ramp built by his teammates in September. (Photo courtesy of Isaac Gibson)|
One Saturday afternoon in late September, 15 team members built a ramp over the front steps of the Loftus' house off Campbell Avenue.
"It was really cool," Hannah said. "They met him where he was at and really helped him. It's a true testament to how awesome the people are here."
"They really proved that they do care and how we are a bunch of brothers," Jeff added.
|Liberty freshman skier Hannah Loftus leads her brother, Jeff, on the lift rope servicing Snowflex's beginners slope.|
Following nearly three months of rehabilitation, when he progressed from a wheelchair to crutches to a boot, Loftus returned to practice at the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre the week after Thanksgiving, albeit on the beginners slope.
"All of my best friends from college have been through the ski and snowboard team and Snowflex, so I am excited to get back up there with them," Loftus said. "We have very strong team camaraderie and a really cool community. We hang out a lot on the hill and are great friends outside of team practices. I definitely have been inspired and encouraged by them."
Liberty ski and snowboard Head Coach Isaac Gibson said Loftus is expected to be on the Flames' travel roster when they open their season with a slopestyle competition Jan. 12-13 at Appalachian (N.C.) Mountain.
|Jeff Loftus performs physical therapy with Club Sports Assistant Director of Sports Medicine Kyle Swanson.|
"We are really excited about getting him back on the hill competing again," said Gibson. "He is starting to do some of his tricks again and looking really strong considering how long he was out."
Swanson gave Loftus the clearance to resume skiing and trusted him to gradually transition back to higher-difficulty rail maneuvers and jumps on the slopes.
"He's come along pretty quickly to be able to be back skiing pain-free, for the most part," Swanson said. "The main thing is working up and progressing him into more complex tricks that require more impact."
If he stays healthy, Loftus — who reclassified as a freshman after transferring in as a sophomore cinematic arts major last year — may be able to compete with his younger sister for three more seasons.
|Jeff Loftus performs a trick on a rail set up at Snowflex.|
For now, he is looking forward to returning to top competitive form and sharing the joy of the sport and fellowship with teammates and opponents alike.
"Coming to the ski program, I thought it was just going to be like that athletic outlet, but it's really been a cool spiritual outlet, too, because when we go to different competitions, our coach reminds us that our main focus is that this is like a mission trip," he said. "We're sharing the Gospel and building relationships."