It's a blue bird day at Teacup Lake Nordic area and the sun lights up the snowy peak of nearby Mt. Hood. I push off on a crust of perfectly groomed Nordic track on my classic skis, trying to catch...
Long before Timothy Mineo became a foot and ankle doctor, he was a skier. He started skiing at the age of three, competed at the University of Colorado, got into summer freeskiing on the glaciers of British Columbia in the early days of terrain parks, and ski-bummed his way from Copper Mountain to Lake Tahoe in between college and medical school. In fact, it was a pair of ski injuries, along with his experience working as a ski-boot-fitter in Tahoe, that convinced him to pursue medicine and to specialize in feet and ankles.
“That’s what sparked my interest in going into medicine,” Mineo said during a recent interview at Advantage Orthopedic and Sports Medicine in Gresham, Oregon. “I liked that mentality of wanting to help people, and I found that there were doctors who can be like teachers and really keep you motivated and active, and that’s their goal, to get you back out there in your sport. And there were other doctors who were like, ‘What are you doing? You need to quit.’ I never wanted to be that person. My goal is to get you right back out there.”
Mineo was born in Houston, Texas. His mom was an enthusiastic skier, and his family had a time-share in Breckenridge, Colorado, so they spent a lot of time heading north for the mountains. When he was a teenager he and his brothers would routinely hop in the car for the 18-hour drive to the nearest mountain powder in Taos, New Mexico, to pound the bumps all day long and perfect their helicopters.
He went to college in Colorado for the skiing and the outdoors, and competed on the Alpine team before his first knee injury sidelined him. Part of his rehabilitation involved bicycling, and it turned out that biking came quite easy for him. Before long he had been recruited onto the school’s triathlon team, and he competed in both skiing and triathlons at Boulder while earning his degree in kinesiology and physiology.
After school Mineo took his MCATs, but he held off on medical school to be a ski bum for a while. He worked for a few years at Copper Mountain, attended some summer camps in Canada, and then moved out to Lake Tahoe and worked in Incline Village as a boot-fitter. That’s when he first developed an interest in the biomechanics of feet and ankles. It’s also where he suffered his second knee injury while hucking off a cliff in the backcountry.
“We were launching off this cliff line, and I didn’t have enough speed,” he recalls. “I got stuck in the snow, and when I went off the cliff I didn’t go far enough. I dropped like 15 feet directly down onto this hard-pack, and then right into the powder, and I damaged the cartilage in my knee. I just treated it with ibuprofen for a while, but then about 6 months later I went to stand up and it just completely gave out.”
Two surgeries later, Mineo had made the shift from ski bum to med school student. He completed medical school in Chicago, came out to Oregon for a foot and ankle residency at Legacy Health/Kaiser Permanente, and joined the team at Advantage in Gresham. He has big plans for their three-and-a-half-year-old son Tristan, who has been skiing since he could walk and goes up to the mountain weekly.
The bulk of Mineo’s practice involves trauma. He handles about 100-150 ankle fractures per year, along with foot fractures and sprains. He also specializes in complex reconstructive surgery, ankle arthroscopy and ligament stabilization, and he is one of a handful of surgeons in Oregon who can perform total joint replacement of the ankle.
Mineo gets high grades from his patients for his easy manner, technical proficiency and compassion. Skijoring athlete and dog sled racer Patricia Carroll went to see him for tendinitis after a series of serious injuries in Canada and on Mount Hood. “I just liked him from the beginning,” she said. “He’s a pioneer in his field and he has all sorts of ideas of things to try. And he puts up with my gazillions of questions and listens to what I have to say.”
Another of Mineo’s patients, Jeri Smith, said, “I would recommend him without a doubt and without hesitation, and I would go back to him in a heartbeat.”
The 62-year-old Smith also gave Mineo high grades for his sense of humor — she jokingly wrote “The doctor’s cute” on the form as the reason for her visit.
David Caseday met Dr. Mineo while his wife was recovering from a bad fall down a spiral staircase and ended up getting a complicated achilles tendon surgery from him along with his wife’s two surgeries. “I would give him the highest rating I could give,” said Caseday. “My wife works with surgeons and she said the same about him. She broke her leg in 11 places and he put her back together.”
‘Just getting outside and on the snow, I just love it.’
Mineo keeps a busy schedule as a surgeon, but he also manages to carve out time for carving up mountain snow. His family takes annual trips to Colorado and Mount Bachelor, but his home mountain is Hood.
“The nice thing about Hood is how close it is, especially for us here in Gresham. I have a shower in my office, and the reason I have a shower in my office is because I’ll take Monday mornings off and go up to ski. I drive 35 minutes back, take a shower in my office, and go see my patients. Even if it’s just a few runs, just getting outside and on the snow, I just love it.”
Mineo is 38, and he still races cars at Portland International Raceway in the summer and hits the jumps in the terrain park in winter — though he doesn’t go as big as he used to in his youth. Freeskiing has come a long way from his heyday in the 90s. “I look at what the kids do these days, and it is crazy,” he says. “When I was into it I would be excited to do a 720 with a grab. That was amazing. And now it’s like nothing. It’s like, ‘Go to the Kid Park. You’re an old man.’”
A Few Recommendations
As a foot and ankle expert and a former boot-fitter, Mineo has a few suggestions for skiers and snowboarders:
Get in shape before you hit the slopes. “The best way to get ready for the winter season is to make sure you stay active in the summer… Any isometric exercises like wall sits are good. What I do is get a medicine ball and those wobbly boards and do squats to strengthen the muscles and get ready.”
Get to know your boots, and exercise your feet. “Put your ski boots on before the season, wear them a little bit, get used to them. Because we have small muscles in our foot that we are not working every day when we’re wearing these nice comfortable shoes. They get lazy. There are exercises you can do to build up those foot muscles, so that you don’t get that burn from foot cramps in the early season.”
Invest in a boot fitting. “We all have different issues when it comes to fitting into ski boots. That’s why some over-the-counter boots don’t really work.”
Be active and stay active, even after injuries: “Do something and be passionate about it,” Mineo suggests. “You may just be a weekend warrior, but that’s still more active than the general population. The mental load can weigh on you when you get injured — it can get depressing. That’s why I like to be able to intervene and give people hope, and get them back out there.”
Anyone with foot and ankle problems can contact Mineo through Advantage at 503-661-5388.