UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson Recovering From Surgery For Torn Bicep

University of Wisconsin System interim President Tommy Thompson is recovering from surgery Thursday to repair a torn bicep. Thompson says the injury comes from a “little water skiing accident” last weekend. 

The 79-year-old four-term Wisconsin governor and current leader of the state’s college system announced his injury and upcoming operation with a short Facebook post on Thursday. 

“On my way in to surgery this morning,” wrote Thompson. “Had a little water skiing accident over the weekend and have to have my bicep reattached to the tendon.”

On Thursday afternoon, UW System spokesperson Mark Pitsch sent a statement to WPR stating that Thompson is out of surgery. 

“He’s resting and recovering well, already working the phones and looking forward to getting back to work,” said Pitsch.

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Thompson has been traveling to UW System campuses since August to rally students to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. On Sept. 13, Thompson was at UW-Eau Claire as part of his “Vax Up” and “70 for 70” vaccination push, which will offer $7,000 scholarships through a drawing for students who are vaccinated and attend a school with a 70 percent student vaccination rate. 

During the Eau Claire event, Thompson, chancellor Jim Schmidt and some students took swings at a carnival-style game with a large wooden mallet. The mallet has become somewhat famous after Thompson appeared in multiple videos obliterating various fruits with it to illustrate the former governor’s intention to “Smash COVID” at UW campuses. 

After news of Thompson’s torn bicep and surgery broke, the UW System posted another video with him and comedian Charlie Berens bringing the wooden hammer down on the game with the caption: “Note: No muscles were torn in the filming of this video.” 

Years before Thompson took to smashing things with the oversized hammer to promote campus COVID-19 safety and vaccination efforts at UW campuses, he made news for showing off his physical prowess during an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate in 2012. During a meeting with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters and editorial board members, Thompson dropped to the floor and did 50 push-ups at age 70. 

Thompson is scheduled to make another campus visit to UW-Superior on Monday. Pitsch told WPR the event is still scheduled.