Olympic Athletes and the Risks of the Games

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WinterOlympicRingsExcitement is building with the start of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games just around the corner.  There are families around the world who will be watching the Games with excitement – and anxiety.  Traumatic brain injuries are not uncommon to the Games – summer and winter.  In 2010 while preparing for the Games in Canada, Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Georgian luger, crashed into a pole and died from his head injuries.  He reportedly shared with his father before the fatal run that he was deathly afraid of the track.  In 1999 snowboarder, Kevin Pearce, was also preparing for the Vancouver Games when he missed a landing on the half pipe and sustained a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).  Kevin has gone on to become a nationally known motivational speaker and his story became “Crash Reel”.  Greg Louganis suffered a concussion after hitting his head on the diving springboard during the preliminary rounds of the Seoul Games in 1988.  Greg went on to win the gold medal for the same dive and did not seem to suffer any long-term effects of the concussion.

As the level of competition continues to climb, the level of risk of TBI becomes more pervasive.  The world shines a spotlight on the amazing performances of these elite athletes while the spectators are awed by the heights and speed that continue to increase.  However, even some of the highest performing athletes are unwilling to risk severe injury unnecessarily.  Just today Shaun White, the snowboarding superstar of the 2010 Vancouver Games, announced he is withdrawing from the slopestyle event because of the dangerous condition of the course.  His decision sparked the following response from Canadian Maxence Parrot: Shaun knows he won’t be able to win the slopes, that’s why he pulled out. He’s scared!— Maxence Parrot (@MaxParrot) February 05, 2014

Competition is what the Games are all about and seeing the athletes challenge themselves and their rivals is part of the “game.”  However, it can become a dangerous, even deadly, game when it becomes too fast, too high, too steep.

Click here to read more about Nodar Kumaritashvili, and click here to read more about Kevin Pearce.

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