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Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Action sports injuries seeing increase as athletes start taking greater risks
From The Post and Courier:
For action sports stars accustomed to leaving fans breathless with acrobatic aerial stunts, those same athletes are now in shock themselves.
Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke remains in critical condition at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City after a seemingly unremarkable fall last week. Burke, a six-time Winter X Games medalist and winner of the Women's Ski Superpipe in 2011, was training in Park City and preparing to defend her title at Winter X Games Aspen later this month.
She landed a jump toward the end of a training run but fell and hit her head. Peter Judge, head of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, emphasized that Burke was not trying unusually difficult tricks. "It was nothing out of the norm, nothing on the extreme end of the spectrum." However, within minutes, she was airlifted to Salt Lake City.
Burke underwent surgery to repair a tear in her vertebral artery. "With injuries of this type, we need to observe the course of her brain function before making definitive pronouncements about Sarah's prognosis for recovery," said Dr. William T. Couldwell, the chair of neurosurgery at the University of Utah.
Dr. Safdar Ansari, the neuro- intensivist coordinating Burke's care, addressed her situation later in the week. "With traumatic brain injury, our care is focused on addressing the primary injury and preventing secondary brain damage, as well as managing other injuries sustained at the time of the accident, all of which requires close monitoring and intensive care. At this moment, Sarah needs more time before any prognosis can be determined."
So as we wait to see if Burke recovers, we can wonder why these injuries happen. But honestly, we know the answer to that question. This is the nature of these action sports. The halfpipes are getting bigger. The stunts are becoming riskier, with more height and flips. And yet, it is the athletes themselves pushing to perform more dangerous stunts.
Even if I wanted to do so, there would be no sense for me to argue that the sports' governing bodies should regulate them more closely. These athletes know exactly what they are getting into. Snowboarding star Gretchen Bleiler wrote in espnW.com: "As pro snowboarders, skiers, etc., we all know that what we do is risky. But when accidents produce results like this we're left praying and asking ourselves questions. Is it worth it? Why did this happen? What are we doing?"Continue reading.
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