As I watch some of the events in the 2014 Winter Olympics, I am amazed at the moves that these athletes attempt and master. Olympic events that are new additions, or relatively new, have spawned unbelievable feats of grace and athleticism, while other sports have progressed so much that one has to wonder if this generation of athletes is genetically modified. I find myself gasping at the jumps and lifts in pairs figure skating, and incredible flips and moves in events such as slopestyle skiing and snowboarding, aerial skiing, and snowboarding half-pipe. And let’s not forget the great speed in skeleton and luge and the brutal impact freestyle moguls must have on knees and other body parts. If you have been watching, you know that quite a few athletes have already been injured, while others have taken nasty spills, but seemingly are alright. Somehow I think that more than their egos are bruised.
How can you fall down on the hard ice on your rear end without getting at the very least, one nasty black and blue mark? This happened to the German pairs skaters Robin Szolkowy and Aliona Savchenko, who both fell on jumps in the final program free skate on Wednesday. He tumbled to the ice on a triple toe loop on their first side-by-side sequence, but her fall happened after an incredibly high triple salchow at the conclusion of the program. They still managed to win the bronze medal. American figure skater Jeremy Abbott took a horrific fall after a quad toe at the beginning of his program on Thursday. He hit the ice hard, with his hip taking the brunt of the fall – crashing into the boards from the momentum. Although it looked like he was not going to get up, he miraculously did and skated a brave and beautiful program.
Sochi Winter Olympics Injuries of Note
Rok Perko of Slovenia broke his nose in a fall in men’s downhill training. In the same training session, French skier Brice Roger injured his right knee, tearing ligaments and sustaining a broken bone – he is out for six months.
Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein pulled out of the downhill and super-G after suffering a heavy bruise on her right shin when she fell in downhill training on Sunday.
The great Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko injured his back during practice on Wednesday, then fell on a triple axel during warm-ups on Thursday, causing him to withdraw. Plushenko had major spine surgery a year ago – the 12th operation during his figure-skating career.
A worker who was on the bobsled track during a forerunning sled run was hit hard and catapulted into the air, suffering a concussion and two broken legs. He was airlifted to a local hospital and the question remains why this happened. Two other workers on the track managed to scramble off in time.
Finnish skier Marika Enne suffered a concussion when she fell hard on her head during her slopestyle training course run. The 21-year old skier has a history of concussions, making her more vulnerable to long-term damage.
Russian skicross racer Maria Komissarova incurred a very serious injury on the PSX olympic skicross venue. She suffered a fracture of the spine with dislocation and underwent surgery at Krasnaya Polyana hospital.
Canadian Marie-Michele Gagnon dislocated her shoulder after straddling a gate in the super-combined on Monday. Although she returned for the super-G, she skied out.
Torstein Horgomo, a Norwegian snowboarder, broke a collarbone and had to withdraw from the games.
During the individual large hill ski jump event on Wednesday night, Gold medalist Kamil Stoch of Poland and Russian ski jumper Mikhail Maksimochkin both crashed during landings. Although Stoch twisted his elbow, he went on to jump the following day. The 20-year-old Maksimochkin suffered hairline fractures of two ribs and had to be treated at a Sochi hospital.
To give you an idea how these athletes push themselves, among the ski jumpers on the practice run was Austrian Thomas Morgenstern, a three-time Olympic champion. Morgenstern was hospitalized with skull and lung injuries after a training crash on January 10. And these injuries came just four weeks after he suffered facial cuts, bruises and a broken finger following a bad landing during a World Cup event.
Number of Estimated Winter Sports Injuries in 2012
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) tracks product-related injuries through its National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) – the previous year’s statistics are usually released in June of the following year. They specifically analyze injuries treated at U.S. hospital emergency rooms, so the estimates are low in many cases – some lesser injuries are self-treated, while other injuries are attended to at doctors’ office or immediate care centers. I have been analyzing these statistics since 2001 and sports-related injury prevention has become one of my specialized areas of PR.
Winter Sports Injury Stats (CPSC)
- Ice Hockey: 55,328 (7,893 Fractures, 4,597 Concussions)
- Skiing: 40,203 (11,269 Fractures, 2,978 Concussions)
- Snowboarding: 38, 805 (13,314 Fractures, 3,329 Concussions)
- Ice Skating: 27,557 (5,526 Fractures, 1,618 Concussions, 3,747 Lacerations)
- Sleds (Sledding): 16,108 (4,123 Fractures, 906 Concussions)
Winter Sports Injury Prevention Tips
- Buy and use helmets or protective head gear approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for skiing, snowboarding, hockey, and snowmobiling 100 percent of the time. These must fit correctly and be worn properly to be effective.
- For hockey, in addition to head gear, protective gear includes a face shield, mouth guard, shoulder and elbow pads, shin guards, cup/supporter, and gloves. Goalies require additional protective gear.
- Do not participate in outdoor sports when weather conditions pose a serious hazard.
- Ice skate only in areas designated for skating, and be sure to check the ice for cracks and debris.
- Avoid overly aggressive behavior. Boarding, butt-ending, charging, clipping, contact to the head, cross-checking, elbowing, head-butting, high sticks, holding, kneeing, roughing, slashing, and spearing are all “illegal” moves that incur penalties in hockey.
- Use only sleds that can be steered, and never go down a slope head first.
- Follow all posted signs and warnings on ski slopes, sledding hills and ice skating rinks.