A Canadian freestyle skier who was critically injured during practice in Utah this week had successful surgery Wednesday to repair a vertebral artery tear, which had caused bleeding in her skull, a statement released by her publicist said Thursday.
Sarah Burke, 29, still was in critical condition Thursday at University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, two days after her fall during a training run at Park City Mountain Resort's superpipe, according to the statement.
The statement was the first to give details of Burke's injuries. The tear in Burke's artery in her neck, which supplies blood to the brain, caused an intracranial hemorrhage, the statement said.
"With injuries of this type, we need to observe the course of her brain function before making definitive pronouncements about Sarah’s prognosis for recovery," said Dr. William T. Couldwell, who performed Wednesday's surgery and is neurosurgery chair at University of Utah. "Our Neuro Critical Care team will be monitoring her condition and response continuously over the coming hours and days."
Burke reportedly fell while trying a trick and "whiplashed" onto her side at Park City Mountain Resort's superpipe on Tuesday, officials have said. Resort spokesman Andy Miller said she was treated at the scene before being flown by helicopter to the hospital.
Her husband, Rory Bushfield, and other members of her family are with her in the hospital, the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association said.
Burke, a native of Ontario who now lives in British Columbia, was 11th in the Association of Freeskiing Professionals overall rankings last year. She has won four gold medals in the Winter X Games, the event she was training for at the time of Tuesday's accident. She also won gold at the 2005 world championships in Finland and in 2007 received ESPN’s Best Female Action Sports Athlete.
Burke is considered a pioneer of freestyle skiing and was a major force in getting the ski halfpipe event added to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, said Wednesday.
Dr. Edward Aulisi, chief of neurosurgery at the Washington Hospital Center in the nation's capitol, said the type of injury that Burke sustained isn't uncommon. "We see it frequently in car accidents here," he said.
Aulisi, who isn't involved in Burke's care, said her surgery will have been done to prevent further damage from occurring.
Burke's family is grateful for support coming from people around the globe, according to Thursday's statement. People have flooded Burke's Facebook page with messages of support since Tuesday's fall.
The Canadian Freestyle Ski Association has said that it did not have any word on specifically what caused the injury but that it was told Burke wasn't doing any new tricks or anything out of the ordinary at the time of the incident.