In 1956 Dr. Messner received his degree in medicine from the Saint Louis School of Medicine. He established a private practice in orthopedic surgery in Lakewood, Colo. in 1964. Along with colleagues from In Children’s Hospital, Dr. Messner also co-founded the Amputee Clinic at Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado.
Since winter sports are popular in Colorado, Dr. Messner felt that recreation through skiing would help in rehabilitation of children with amputations. They approached Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and the director of the ski school, Willy Schaefler. In 1969, it was decided that they would begin the program with 15 amputee children. The program remained at A-Basin for two seasons before the George Engel Ski School at Winter Park Resort was contacted and the program found its permanent home. With the aid of Willie Williams, an RN at Children’s Hospital, Dr. Messner attended to all of the children to assure a positive experience for their different rehabilitation and medical needs.
As the program grew at Winter Park, racing quickly became a large component. Dr. Messner became the doctor who traveled with the disabled ski team. In 1976, he accompanied four persons with amputations to France for the first paralympic international event. In 1980, he also traveled to Geilo, Norway, for the first Disabled Ski Championship Games. Some of the team that Dr. Messner accompanied were blind, partially paralyzed, and a variety of amputee skiers.
Dr. Messner worked passionately with the International Olympic Committee in an attempt to recognize disabled athletes and to propel them to the same competitive level as able-bodied Olympians.
Dr. Messner continued as a sports medicine advisor to the disabled racing program until his retirement in 2004 and in doing so made it possible for countless individuals to excel in their sport.