I want to Dedicate this article to (Christine Brennan) Who earlier in the week decided to RUN HER MOUTH (http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=9479741) about something that she had NO CLUE ABOUT !
Contact this Knuckle Head and let her know how you feel about this:
Christine – This is how news is done TAKE NOTES if you have figured out how to get your head outta your Ass ! With that being said —-
They propel themselves from the heights of the halfpipe — flipping, spinning, hovering in the air, pulling off tricks that often look one part painting, another part video game.
Lost is the reality that the halfpipe kids — with their long hair, baggy clothes and flair for making it all look so easy — are putting their lives on the line every time they drop into the pipe, as the recent injury to Olympic hopeful Kevin Pearce illustrated.
Pearce, one of the world’s best snowboarders, slammed his forehead on the side of the halfpipe in practice Dec. 31, while working on one of the sport’s toughest tricks. He has been in a Salt Lake City hospital since then with a brain injury, now in serious condition and on a long, slow path toward recovery.
“In my 18 years of snowboarding, I’d never seen an accident like that, and I hope I never see another one like it again,” said Kelly Clark, a 2002 Olympic gold medalist who will be in her third Olympics this year.
Indeed, most people in the sport viewed the Pearce accident as a fluke, and there’s a dearth of similar incidents that would suggest his injury was part of a trend.
In fact, wearing patches that say “I ride 4 Kevin” on their gear, snowboarders such as Pearce’s friend, Danny Davis, came back to the next event and amped up their difficulty. It was their way of paying tribute to their friend, who will be on the minds of many over the upcoming month filled with more Olympic qualifiers, the Winter X Games and the Olympics.
But they concede it was scary seeing a comrade go down in that fashion.
“You have to get past the fear and just throw out your passion,” said Hannah Teter, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist.
Halfpipe skills, like those in almost every sport, are an ever-evolving, envelope-pushing list of risks that riders must keep up with if they want to remain among the elite. This year, American stars Shaun White and Louie Vito are among those who will try back-to-back double-cork jumps — a series of twists packed inside two flips — and the conventional wisdom is the Olympic gold medalist will be the one who best pulls off that stunt. Pearce was working on the double-cork when he was injured.
Also, the height of the halfpipe, essentially a hollowed-out, 500-foot-long ice shell with no top, has been raised by nearly 25 percent, to 22 feet, since the last Olympics.
Increasing the difficulty of the tricks and the size of the walls obviously increases the level of danger. Pearce’s injury, however, isn’t typical of most halfpipe injuries. More often, concussions in this sport happen when a rider slams the back of his head into the ice at the bottom of the halfpipe after a misjudged jump.
They also suffer their share of broken legs, arms and dislocated shoulders — all part of doing business in an X-Games world. And no different than the injuries suffered by the athletes in the more traditional discipline of Alpine skiing.
“Everyone out there knows it’s an action sport, and there’s an inherent risk that’s accepted by the athletes and coaches who participate,” said Jeremy Forster, program director for snowboarding at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
Riders and coaches point to the independent spirit of the sport and say they structure their training to keep things as safe as possible. Jake Burton, one of snowboarding’s godfathers, said the size of the halfpipe walls were increased to 22 feet because that’s what the riders wanted, and “it’s super important to listen to the riders and build what they want.”
Helmets are a must in pro snowboarding, and one benefit of that is the inevitable trickle-down that comes when recreational riders want to emulate the people they admire. A study released last year said 48 percent of U.S. skiers and boarders wore helmets last ski season, compared with only 25 percent in 2002-03.
Wearing a helmet, of course, does not guarantee safety.
“Pro riders take calculated risks, but they snowboard for a living and train for these runs,” Burton said. “If you talk to riders, they don’t want to stop trying new tricks just because there is risk involved.”
Unlike freestyle skiing, which evolved slowly and, in some cases, even fought some progress in the name of safety, snowboarding at the top levels has most often advanced organically, with the riders — both on snowboards and their summer counterparts, skateboards — the ultimate judges of what’s safe and what’s not.
They practice hundreds of jumps off trampolines and into foam pits before taking them out to the pipe. Likewise, they say they adhere to doctors’ orders when injuries come into play.
“The medical community dictates that,” said Bud Keene, who coaches White and now works as the developmental coach for USSA. “It’s completely taken out of our hands.”
When asked if there were any clearly defined guidelines either for advancing with new skills or for handling injuries, Keene deferred to Forster, who said there were not.
One doctor who treats head injuries said he appreciates the cutting-edge nature of snowboarding and other sports like it, but still think some concrete guidelines would be appropriate.
“The Kevin Pearces of the world are developing new, unique moves that’s bringing the sport and its athleticism to a very different level,” says Dr. Gerard Gioia of the Children’s National Medical Center, and director of the Safe Concussion Outcome, Recovery and Education program. “That’s very admirable. But I think to suggest that it’s OK for there to be no guidelines would be misguided.”
On the recreational side, the rate of snowboard injuries has increased from 3.37 to nearly seven per 1,000 snowboarder visits in the past decade. That could be attributed as much to an increase in the number of less-skilled snowboarders — who have fed the growing popularity of the sport — as to a referendum on what the pros are doing.
“If responsible parents want kids to take up the sport and the kids begin to learn there are no rules, no guidelines, no understanding of safety aspects, that’s going to back people off, or should back people off,” Gioia said of the parents.
Which brings up the topic of snowboardcross — the halfpipe’s more violent, unpredictable cousin.
Introduced to the Olympics four years ago, it’s a four-person, downhill free-for-all, over bumps, steep terrain and curves, where intentional contact is illegal but “unintentional” bumping and jostling for position is what makes the sport click. First person across the line wins in these breakneck races, and quite often, not everyone crosses the line on both feet.
Two elite level riders have died in that sport since it became a more widely contested event in the past decade. American champion Lindsey Jacobellis said she has suffered at least three “pretty good” concussions over the past several years, including one that knocked her out at the end of last season.
“You see legs shattered, knees blown, arms shattered, shoulders out of joint,” said defending Olympic snowboardcross champion Seth Wescott. “Pretty much every trauma that can happen to the human body. It’s hard dealing with the fact that that’s the reality of what your job is.”
That is not, however, the story they tell on the halfpipe side, where broken bones and mild concussions happen, but more severe injuries such as Pearce’s are uncommon. Keene, a coaching veteran of more than 20 years, said there were no professional halfpipe deaths “that I’m aware of.” He doesn’t think the Pearce injury will trigger any immediate changes in the protocol.
“It didn’t have anything to do with the double he was trying,” Keene said. “Yes, it was closer to the limit of his ability, which increases your chance of failing. But that injury could’ve happened on any trick that’s been done in last 16 years.”
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