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Concussion Dangers on the Sochi Slopes

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Concussion Dangers on the Sochi Slopes

This year's winter Olympics will feature plenty of death-defying feats as skiers and snowboarders speed downhill or launch into the air, flipping and spinning, to compete in half-pipe and slopestyle events.

 

However, these dangerous tricks and trips down the mountain come with a real threat. Experts say that the bigger the jumps and flips, and the higher the downhill speeds, the greater the chance of concussion or other traumatic brain injury that could leave the athletes at risk for long-term problems.

Dr. Stuart Willick, professor of sports medicine at the University of Utah Orthopaedic Center, said there isn't much research about long-term health effects to professional skiers or snowboarders, but that it's likely that if they experience multiple concussions they are more at risk for degenerative brain disease such as Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has been found in multiple former football players.

"The long-term effects in concussions in snowboarding and skiing has not been studied," said Willick. "If we extrapolate from other sports, such as professional football ... we know that repeated concussion can have long-term health consequences."

While media attention regarding concussion risk has focused on pro football players, who get hit countless times during their career, multiple professional snowboarders and skiers have reported suffering multiple concussions during their careers.

In the HBO documentary "The Crash Reel," snowboarder Shaun White said in an interview he had suffered nine concussions.

Slopestyle skier Keri Herman, 31, told ABC News correspondent Matt Gutman that she doesn't know the exact number of concussions she's had although it's probably fewer than 10. However, after suffering these head injuries she's had to spend days to weeks in total darkness for concussion therapy and knows she is one bad fall away from a life-long injury.

This week female snowboarder Marika Enne of Finland suffered a concussion while practicing on the Sochi slopestyle course, according to the Associated Press. She had to be carried off the half-pipe on a stretcher.

Dr. Kerry Brega, neurosurgeon and associate professor of neurosurgery at University of Colorado, said it can be extremely difficult to diagnose a concussion, since the symptoms are so varied. She said that the difficulty in diagnosing a concussion can mean athletes may compete when they're not ready, putting themselves at risk of more severe injury.

References and further information

This article was originally produced by ABC News.

 

To view the rest of the article visit the ABC News website http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/concussion-dangers-sochi-slopes/story?id=22393041

 

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