Posted on February 8, 2010 · Posted in Brain Injury

A year ago, Natasha Richardson reminded all of us that sport concussions happen in sports other than football and that average people can suffer, not just famous athletes. With the Winter Games approaching it will be world class athletes who may stir up the conversation again, but in a newer sport, one without a tradition of safety: snowboarding.

There are already worries that snowboarders in Vancouver will be cracking their heads as they compete in the counterculture sport, as The San Francisco Chronicle called it, which was admitted to the Olympics in 1998.

The Chronicle noted that “maneuvers in the halfpipe have grown from exhilarating to terrifying in the four years since Shaun White won the gold in Turin, and the champ’s face smacked against the lip of the pipe at the Winter X Games last weekend, sending his helmet flying.”

The International Olympics Committee is criticized for not setting safety standards for snowboarding, and letting the International Skiing Federation govern it.

The Miami Herald also weighed in on the issues, in a story headlined “Winter Olympics Flirting With Danger.”

The article cites snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who hit his forehead on the wall of a half-pipe and sustained traumatic brain injury. He is now at a long-term rehabilitation facility.

“Combine snow, ice, expressway speeds, six-story heights,” The Herald writes. “Think NASCAR on a slippery track or gymnastics with a helmet but without a mat. Imagine plunging down a slope as hard as concrete in a skinsuit or sliding down a roller coaster on a steel cookie sheet or flying through the air without a parachute.”

Not only snowboarders but skiers face serious injury, prompting some to call for safety reforms.

Will snowboarding reform? Will the thrill of the daredevil be replaced by some common sense about permanent damage to the minds of these young people?

We have been discussing the different trends of two of America’s most popular sports with respect to head injury risk in recent weeks. Today, at we talk about the NFL’s growing commitment to player brain safety. Last week we talked about NASCAR’s preference for ratings rather than safety. The NFL seems to have learned that protecting its assets (the players) is more important than making the sport more sensational. NASCAR has clearly not.

We can only hope that the leaders of this Olympic sport show plan ahead rather than react to some tragedy.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447