Freestyle ski champ still critical after surgery
Sarah Burke, 28, suffered serious injuries in a fall during training at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah.
January 12th, 2012
01:33 PM ET

Freestyle ski champ still critical after surgery

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.

soundoff (113 Responses)
  1. Rhonda

    What? No questions from ignorant americans asking who is paying for her treatment? God bless Sarah and her family and here's to a quick and full recovery so she can return to Canada to get some love.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ellie

      You seem to have a problem.....relax ...

      January 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      Rhonda, deflate your chest.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • New Mexico

      Actually your comment sheds the most light on the word ignorant.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • PCola Vet

      The ONLY one sounding ignorant is YOU Rhonda will your ridiculous comment associated with this story. Prayers to Sarah and her family.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC Canada

      Rhonda...if your a should really try to be nicer (You should just try to be nicer anyhow). Americans aren't ignorant. That's a very generalising statement. Americans are funny people for sure sometimes, Robin Williams I think said Americans are just Canadians with hand guns. As a Canadian I've never met an American I didn't like. And I've motorcycled all over the US. I know probably I just been lucky.
      Besides this a sports issue not a political issue. I hope she gets better and skis again. At least for that you and I agree.
      Have a nice day.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • the camster

      No, apparently only ignorant comments from you, and your nationality is entirely insignificant to me. Ignorance knows no borders.

      January 12, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mick

      I don't know what is going on with some Canadians these days. I love canadians, just like most love Americans. Yes we all have our share of dirtbags, but last month while i was at Whistler I had a couple run ins with Canadians who went out of their way to disparage americans. I think you all need to stop believing the media, generalizing we are all fat, or Kardashian who.res or that we actually like what wall street or our politicians are doing. Haven't you noticed we are just as mad as you are about it? Don't label us all, just like we americans shouldn't label you all either. I truly like canada and the people, but I have ot say i am pretty disturbed by the recent spate of anti americanism.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diann

      Geez, Rhonda, ignorant much. I'm embarrassed that you're from Canada.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • VanCity Girl

      What a rude thing to say Rhonda! What's with the comment "come back to Canada so you can get some love" By the sounds of it, she's recieving top notch treatment in the USA. Be nice to our friendly neighbours! Get well Sarah – we are all cheering for you!

      January 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • observer

      I think Rhonda is referring to the comments from yesterday's article about the accident, which did include some offensive (and ignorant) complaining about who was going to pay the medical bills. Every country has decent people and ignorant people, end of story.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nisroc

      Ellie if you have read the other article you would see what Rhonda is talking about. I want her back in Canada fast as those comments are almost threatening. The US comments on the other article has just shocked me and make me embarrassed to have to live beside a country with such people in it. I know there is good people in the USA but it is just shocking how one person could say anything negative about this beautiful person regardless if you know her or not.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Go Sarah

      @Nisroc. You think moving her to Canada right now is appropriate? Give your head a shake. She is recieving the best possible medical care around the clock and is in no way threatened as you seem to be delusioned to. As a member of the Canadian Ski Team, she will have private insurance coverage and all medical is covered by a Canadian insurance agent – it is paid for. Moving her to Canada right now would only be done by someone praciticing neurosurgical medicine by way of CNN message boards.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nisroc

      Maybe I am delusional but after seeing the comments, "is she dead yet?" or "just kill her already" on the other article and pretty sure it would be easy to find out which hospital she is in I do fear for her safety. It has nothing to do with US health care as I am sure the US is fully capable of providing her with the best needs. My concerned is safety from those who seem to want her dead.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stan

      I'm not sure what's worse... a false accusation or a heavy judgement. You guys aren't perfect either... it's just we have more people that post... good and bad. I too wish the best for her. Accidents to the brain to young and healthy have better prognoses.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • rob

      While insensitive, Rhonda points to the flaw in our healthcare system that payment and money plays. Right now this is free publicity for the hospital and the nuero program getting their name out for treating her but at the end of her treatment she will get a bill from the doctors and hospital. hopefully this athlete has some sort of insurance for a situation like this to cover it. In an emergency, such as athletes and everyone else here in the states, care is given for the life threatening emergencies even if a person has insurance or money at the time of the event.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. pamik

    I have never followed this kind of sport but am truly sorry this beautiful young woman has such an injury. Best of luck to her and her family during her recovery.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. pamik

    Rhonda, we are not all ignorant Americans just as not all Canadians are stupid because some of you don't know when to capitalize.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack Be Humble

      "Capitalizing" on the anger regarding Canadian versus USA health care systems seems to be the point.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Oldie in TampaBay

    Prayers most definitely are being generated from all over the world! Feel better Sarah! Bask in God's Healing Light.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NYCMovieFan

    Wow, the unproductive cynicism, Miss Rhonda. Just know that when you Canadians need expert medical care, you are lucky to be a short distance from the USA. Just ask the THOUSANDS of Canadians who come over the border for their operations and treatments each year. Now can we concentrate on wishing this critically injured skiier a full recovery? Thank you!

    January 12, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ellie

      Your response to Rhoda is excellent !

      January 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • NeutralMind

      There are also Americans who come here for treatment! Or marry Canadians to have access to healthcare?!

      January 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nisroc

      Not trying to start a fight with you here but Canadian health care is better then US health care. You comment about Canadians should be happy they are a short distance is as bad as Rhonda's Appears.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Hope you get better Sarah and god bless you. Wether in Canada or US your getting some of the best medical care world wide. Between Americans and Canadians, there's really not much difference. We both depend on eachother (maybe not when it comes to wars).

      January 12, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sandee

    We are praying in Atlanta, Ga. For her, the immediate family, and her Canadian and Olympic family.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Frank

    wow this young lady is hurt and all some of you have time to do is bash the Canada......Guess it's the week for us in the United States to look bad yet again.....My prayers are for Sarah Burke recovery and her family. In times like these prayers are need foolish comments are not.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sylvester

    Wow Rhonda you should probably see a psychiatrist to help you with your feelings about Americans. God Bless Sarah Burke, God Bless Canada, God Bless America and God help Rhonda.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Canadian Paul

      Agree, she is in NO WAY a reflection of us! God Bless Canada, America and Rhonda.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • VanCity Girl

      Rhonda is not a reflection of us Canadians! We love our American neighbours and I'm thankful of the, what is assumed to be, stellar treatment Sarah is receiving in Utah. Get Well Sarah!

      January 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nisroc

      I am Canadian and I understand where Rhonda comes from. A US comment on a different article on this story here on CNN, stated, "is she dead yet?" or another one, "just kill the s hank already" maybe now you will understand Rhanda comment a little more. Some NOT all the US comments are rather threatening but other have been warm and caring. In Rhonda's case I do understand what she said what she said. I am not saying she will get lack of health care down there or be threatened, but some of the comments that have been said here on CNN are very rude, disrespectful and harassing to a human being in a coma.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Maybe she should comment on that article and not start the fight somewhere else where it is not obvious what she is addressing. Idiots post idiotic things, regardless of nationality, religious beliefs or whatever. You commented that you feared for her life from these posts which I would say is over reacting. Trolls will be trolls and post just to get people like you riled up.

      January 13, 2012 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  9. O.T.

    We pray she has a full and speedy recovery.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jackie

    You stupid IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • lorne

      Jackie, It's good to see your classy remark because it means you are gettting your aggression out in the open. Please don't forget to take your meds in the morning though.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. palintwit

    I saw the words "brain bleed" and "Sarah" and automatically assumed this was an article about Sarah Palin. It was an easy mistake to make. Afterall, we all know how brain damaged Sarah Palin is.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      Get a life. Get help for your obsession, which we all know by now is a sick desire for her love.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Harley Sportster 883

    I hope she has a full recovery, she worked so hard to get Halfpipe in the Olympics for 2014, why anyone feels the need to make this a political Canada vs US thing is beyond me. The worry and concern of a family and knows no borders.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. duklips

    For crying out LOUD, how did this become a political issue? I'm sorry for Rhonda and her family, and hope that she recovers enough to live a normal life, which most likely won't include skiing. On the other hand, this sport is inherently dangerous, because of the constant pushing of the envelope; I expect that she assumed the risk of something like this happening.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ruckuz

    I'm an American and I can't totally blame Rhonda for her statement. Maybe because she's white that no one is asking who's paying for her medical bill. I'm not trying to turn this into a race thing. But I have read a lot of comments saying who is paying for so and so's treatment when the patient is a minority and illegal.

    My point being. It shouldn't matter, the person is hurt and needs medical attention. I remember during a Republican debate or conference, I fogot which. A question was raise about someone that needs medical care but can't pay for it and someone in the crowd say, "let them die". I'm not trying to generalize but it happen during a Republican rally.

    I have been a life long Republican and voted for Bush Jr. both times, but the party has veer right so much that it's running us moderate out of the party.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Why all this talk about who's paying? She has insurance and the Canadian government is going to pay. None of it is coming from the precious pockets of the American taxpayer. I'm American and people make us look like fools when they bring this up.

      January 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. IRIS

    This young lady needs prayers and support – not two countries bickering about each other. Shame on you all.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
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