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. Bone

    One inaccuracy in this article – freestyle skiing has been in the Winter Olympics since Calgary 1988, so the statement that it was `added to the Sochi Games of 2014' is not correct. Peter Judge, who the statement is attributed to, was one of the `pioneers of the sport,' long before Sarah Burke was born, so I know he knows better – it must be a reporter not doing their fact-checking. That being said, my wishes for a safe and speedy recovery for Sarah.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      You are correct, the skier half-pipe and skier slope style events were added for the next Olympics. Some consider these to be "free-ride" events as opposed to "free style". Sarah is one of the aggressive women half pipe skiers and has been a joy to watch over the past few years. She has been a driving force, as well as the late Clay Beck, to add skier half-pipe to the Olympics.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Other1

      It is a new event under freestyle skiing. Superpipe for skiing has never been in the Olympics and it will be an addition to moguls, skier cross, and aerials.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • B UttR

      Lots of accidents in skiing like this. I wish it could be entertaining without being deadly.
      At the beginning, the learning curve is steep and new tricks are easy to develop. But once people have done all the tricks, "the next new thing" is hard, and sometimes tragic. And that's a bummer it has to be that way.

      January 12, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. g

    This is an offensive racist comment. There's no place for this type of comment in a civil society.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CPW

    She has got to be in some serious pain. Best wish's on a fast recovery.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • No Pain

      I doubt she is feeling anything.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacqueline R.

      I'm sure they have her on massive pain killers... so we know she's not in pain. I sure hope she comes out of this soon and regains her health.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • snow in alaska, lots

      When ure in a coma you don't feel much.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      @snows: How do you know? And what's a "ure"? Stick to your brilliant insight into Alaskan weather.

      January 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. palintwit

    Whenever I think of Alaska, I think of Sarah Palin. Whenever I think of Sarah Palin, I think of teabaggers. Whenever I think of teabaggers, I think of nascar. Whenever I think of nascar, I think of trailer trash. Whenever I think of trailer trash, I think of Sarah Palin. Whenever I think of Sarah Palin, I think of teabaggers. Whenever I think of....

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

      Can you read? I only ask because this happened in Utah, and she is from Canada. Alaska =/ Canada twit.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      No, it can't. It is obsessed with Palin to the point that it sees her in anything and everything.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rhonda

    Just to clarify and provide a bit of background on my comments, anyone reading this article yesterday and saw the comments posted in response to that article will understand my position. The majority of comments and replies to comments were all about who was going to foot the bill for this Canadian. That is all I was responding to. I guess I should have prefaced my comment with that. My comments weren't meant to insult all americans but those who spent time worrying about something that was so insignificant when someone was so seriously injured. My apologies to most of those posting comments today. I can see that the thinking is a bit more mature and represent a larger and more compassionate group of americans. I'm sorry and thank you.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • wootdude

      Rhonda, you probably don't read too many of the articles and their comments on this site, (and I don't blame you if you don't) but most of these type stories have trolls who write comments that are designed to tick people off so who ever wrote can giggle in their parents basement. You really shouldn't take them to heart and believe the morons.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinking7

      Rhonda – I don't know where so many rude commenters come from, but I am American and felt deeply saddened for this poor lady. I can understand you being upset by the rude comments. These are not just Americans. Lots of people who post on here have nothing better to do than wish other people the misery that they themselves are feeling. So sorry for you having to read these comments. As far as I am concerned, CNN would do well to shut the whole comment section down on every story.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacqueline R.

      What a nice post. Takes a person of integrity to admit a mistake. Especially online, where one is crucified for any little mistake.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nisroc

      I read your post Rhonda and I was fine and understood your comment clearly. I really do wish that CNN would do a crack down on the trolls as articles like this and many others do not need the disrespect many of the trolls given them. No apoligy needed Rhonda 🙂

      January 12, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesse

      Most–yes, most–of the comments left after online news articles are poorly written, offensive, and serve no purpose other than to give these cretins a venue on which to spew their hate. I think CNN (and all the rest) should stop allowing readers to post. If these terrible posts were the exception I wouldn't offer this, but they are the rule, not the exception.

      January 12, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • nsaidi

      Thank you for your comments, Jesse and everyone. We have a lot of great comments here, and a few that are posted by your typical mischief-makers on the internet. Unfortunately that latter group is a lot more memorable and attention-grabbing. And we're looking for ways to improve the situation for the long term. As a stopgap, I've been watching the comments all day and I try to, when time permits. If you have any questions or observations or thoughts to share, please feel free to e-mail me at CNN at

      January 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Biff

    Godspeed Sarah Burke.. We know your smile and love of the sport will be back with us soon.

    A Canadian..

    January 12, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. fred


    January 12, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOB

      Yes, you are.

      January 12, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. gung hoe

    I seen a picture of sarah this morning.My goodness shes absolutly beautiful ! My best wishes to you, will be praying for you to heal soon.GODSPEED to you !

    January 12, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. N

    Tragic. Here's hoping for a quick and full recovery.

    January 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ski Targhee

    Get well, Sarah!

    January 12, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sardukar

    praying ...right...who put she in a coma on a first place...

    January 12, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jim

    Having had brain surgery several years ago with this very competent doctor who wrote the book on CSF leaks (which is what I had), I feel strongly that Sarah is in very good hands with Dr. Couldwell. It is a scary place to go for the patient but rest assured with his experience she should do fine. On other comments I am sure she has medical insurance which should take care of her expenses as she is an professional athlete. As for those who have nothing intellectual to state ignorance should be ignored and not incouraged. Good luck Sarah with your recovery!

    January 12, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. nobody

    so is she 28 or 29?
    why can't CNN ever get their facts straight

    January 12, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SouthernGal

    Praying for Sarah & her family. Working in healthcare, brain injuries are never fun. ++++++++ some people on here.... Just not right in the head.....

    January 12, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. in her defense

    I think the woman is sick of all the politicizing we Americans have been guilty of doing over just about every article, regardless of how relevent. How dare she get in the way of our "Freedom of Speech!" Let's get her!! (for you slower folk, especially those of you bearing arms, I'm kidding, of course!)

    January 12, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
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