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Be Careful on the Slopes: Professional Freestyle Skier In Critical Condition After Brain Injury

While football, hockey, and soccer injuries garner the most attention when it comes to sports related traumatic brain injury, other activities present just as much risk of harm. As winter season descends upon our area in full force many more residents are likely to take advantage of the season and hit the ski slopes. January and February are always some of the most popular times for local community members to travel to nearby resorts and try out skiing and snowboarding-one of the most common wintertime recreational activities. While our Illinois brain injury lawyers certainly are not advising against this activity, it is important to be fully aware of the risks that the skiing poses and be cognizant of the safety measures that need to be followed.

Over the years many high-profile accidents have taken the lives of those who were skiing like Sonny Bono, Natasha Richardson, and others. For each of the well-known cases there are thousands more skiing accidents where others have either died or suffered serious traumatic head injuries. It is not had to imagine how these accidents come about. When traveling down the snow, many skiers reach pretty significant speeds. If for whatever reason one loses control and falls, the head often makes contact with the hard, compacted ground. The damage to the brain is often pronounced.

The risk exists for both new skiers who are more likely to fall as well as professional athletes who are more likely to reach top speeds and take riskier moves. This week the Washington Post reported on one professional Canadian freestyle skier who remains in critical condition after a devastating fall. The victim, Sarah Burke, was a four times X Games champion and pioneer in the sport of halfpipe skiing. The accident happened while practicing in Utah. According to reports she tore a vertebral artery in the fall-an artery which is located in the neck and supplies blood to the back part of the brain. That part of the brain is most often used to control functions like balance and vision.

Doctors explain that the tearing can be caused by severe twisting motions. In addition, the artery may be damaged if there is a sudden up and down motion of the head. It remains unclear what the long-term effects will be for the victim. She is currently still in a coma. She just had a successful operation to repair the torn artery that caused the bleeding in the brain.

One of the victim’s teammates was near the half pipe when the accident happened. He explained that it didn’t look like that severe of a fall at the time. This is similar to observations made by those near Natatsha Richardson when she fell on the slopes and hit her head a few years ago. Observers noted that she actually got back up and appeared to be doing fine. It wasn’t until later that the effects of the traumatic brain injury were actually exacerbated and she began to suffer serious problems. This should be a testament to all those who suffer any sort of fall while skiing. Just because a fall seems minor, any symptom-even the slightest-should be taken seriously.

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