Two U.S. Olympic snowboard team hopefuls have had their dreams dashed recently as they have been seriously injured just weeks before the Winter Games in Vancouver. Kevin Pearce was injured December 31st in Park City while attempting to land a double cork off a 22-foot-high halfpipe. He hit his head on the side and sustained a serious head that has kept him in the hospital since. About two weeks ago, Pearce was upgraded from critical to serious condition and family members report that he is responding to therapy.
This past weekend, early Sunday morning, Pearce’s good friend Danny Davis suffered a back injury when he crashed an ATV into a closed driveway gate as he was leaving a party held to celebrate his victory in a Dew Tour halfpipe event. He underwent surgery yesterday to repair a vertebrae injured in the accident. It has been reported that the surgery was successful and that Davis will fully recover.
These two events highlight different safety issues. The first is whether the newer 22-foot-high halfpipe version is significantly more dangerous than the previously used 18-foot-high version. Bill Marolt, head of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), said in a recent conference call that safety is always a primary concern when it comes to their athletes, but he does not anticipate any immediate changes in protocol in the wake of the Pearce accident. Staying the course may be fine for the moment, but as the higher halfpipe is integrated into competitions, those in charge of the competitions must keep a careful eye on whether there is a demonstrable increase in accidents and injuries. If there is, they must immediately try to identify potential causes and potential remedies.
Here are some common "halfpiping" mistakes to be wary of:
The Davis accident potentially implicates a different set of safety issues. ATVs can be a lot of fun but they can also be very dangerous. When it comes down to it, common sense dictates that ATVs should be treated like cars in most respects. Know the vehicle and its capabilities. Make sure everything is in proper order before use. Don’t drive impaired or distracted. Always drive at a sensible speed for the conditions, whatever they may be. Obviously, one big difference is that helmets are a must for riding ATVs but not for cars. Failure to follow basic safety guidelines can have disastrous results:
I wish Pearce and Davis the very best in their recoveries and hope that they are back to compete in the 2014 Winter Games. In the meantime, we all need to be mindful of the safety issues that relate to whatever activities we are involved in.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.