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)


    January 12, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Codepwned


      January 12, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • NotanexpertbutIstayedHIexpress

      I doubt it. Even if she was able to regain consciousnesses. I'm sure they have her in an induced coma to help healing.

      January 12, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • MLL

      She is in a medically-induced coma (I read that elsewhere) in order to let her brain heal. So...she is not in a coma on her own as one might think of someone who is comatose, the medications the doctors gave her put her in a coma for a reason. What typically happens is that after the brain has had a chance to heal, doctors will slowly decrease the amount of medication to see how the patient's brain is functioning. I hope this helps explain what is going on.

      January 12, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • RusTnuts


      January 13, 2012 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. jimzcarz


    January 12, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • asda

      What does this b1tch think was going to happen going 100 MPH down a hill??????

      January 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris B

      asda, go screw yourself.

      January 13, 2012 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
    • anjum

      seriously, i hope and pray for her reconvery, and 100% respect her for her dedication to the sport she loved. people like asda who live on the couch and hate on people who truly live their lives with vigor and enthusiasm are disgusting.

      January 13, 2012 at 3:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. TheLord

    And every penny of her hospital stay will be covered by "socialist" Canadian health care, while the average Merican would have to sell his house...

    January 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Toni

      Well, maybe the Merican that had to sell his house should have prioritized a little better and paid for health insurance. That's what the average Merican does. I still don't understand why people think it's MY reponsibility to pay for YOUR health insurance.

      January 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Health insurance isn't available to everyone, I am a type 1 diabetic and can not purchase health insurance on my own because of it. So while we are bailing out AIG to a tune of 80 billion dollars for risky investments, I who have paid roughly 200,000 dollars in taxes over the last 25 years would be out of luck if I lost my job and health insurance.

      How can we justify a trillion dollars for defense, when health care is at it's most basic level nothing more than defense?

      January 12, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alvord

      The average Mexican wouldn't pay a dime. First of all he wouldn't own a house or have the type of job where wages could be garnished. He would just throw the hospital bill in the trash and continue receiving treatment. The hospital won't refuse treatment for non-payment. If the bill collector calls, he'll just change his cell number.

      January 12, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tamm

      The "socialist" Canadian taxes SHE pays cover her health insurance.

      January 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tamm

      But – for out of country insurance - I hope she and her sports organization bought some .

      January 12, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ian

      It's not Health Insurance you need 'Merican, it's Health Care.....big difference

      January 12, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • anjum

      oh COME ON! lets have this blog respect sarah and hope for her recovery. and trust me, i have problems with our health system here in the US, but leave that for a political blog.

      January 13, 2012 at 3:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. kt

    Wishing her a speedy recovery!!

    January 12, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Semper fi

    Godspeed to an amazing Mtn. Woman. Get back to flying high Sarah we are all praying for a full healthy life for you. NEGU!
    (never ever give up)

    January 12, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tamm

    Does she have good travel and health insurance? She's Canadian. She would be covered there. What is it costing in the US?

    January 12, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • rob

      nothing, the US hospital will be paid through her provincial health care program, if she has additional travel insurance, that insurance company would be responsible for part of her coverage

      January 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • lewlew

      Liam Neeson wouldn't be a hearth broken widower if YOUR system was as good as you say it is.

      January 13, 2012 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |


    January 12, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. J R Brown

    I don't understand why people get famous for doing stuff the rest of us just look at and say, "that looks like an incredibly stupid idea". If she's parapalegic ret*rd now, what do you think she or her loved ones would give for her to just be back to "normal" again?

    January 12, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lindsa

    My mother had the same injury – a vertebral artery tear causing bleeding in the skull – 2 years ago after passing out in the driveway and hitting her head and she was admitted to University of Utah's Hospital. My mom didn't make it and she hadn't reached her 55th birthday. Hearing that this young woman has survived the surgery warms my heart that aches for my mom every day. The doctors and staff at the hospital were all wonderful and took good care of my family during our time of grief and so I know this woman's family are finding that same kind of comfort and they're doing everything they can for her. I pray for her survival and speedy recovery and my heart really pours out to them. I wish the other posters here could have more encouraging and positive thoughts instead of the garbage I've read on the first comment page. Life is precious people.

    January 12, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aferg

      Lindsa, I'm sorry about your mother.

      January 13, 2012 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      I am so sorry about your mom.

      January 13, 2012 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. Flagirl52

    In regards to Rhonda, you only need to read the horrible and inappropriate comments CNN has not pre-screened or made sure the post follows the Rules of Conduct. If you have come to CNN comments for the first time it is a very sad reflection that more and more it is those that want to cause people to react to their post because it seems that is all they have to do in their daily life. They want the attention to their post and have no true input into the article they post about. I believe they just want to chill and laugh at those who take the bait. I agree with free speech but this is a site that the victms of the family and many children look too for answers. This is a site that has rules. It is CNN's site. Our children have grown up believing in their reporting and of course go online and read what CNN puts online. If any of you had read the earlier posts it was beyond inappropriate, it was perverted. CNN is the Number one news show and I'm sure the online site is as well. So with CNN's great influence it should also do a better job when it comes to someone putting post that should not see the light of day. This is not a site for perversion and lately I have seen more and more of people getting their jollies off on this site. CNN you need to step up this is your responsibility. I can only click Report abuse on the articles I follow. Who knows how many more go unchecked. I quit replying long ago to those who are inappropriate because I realized it was a game or a high for them. CNN YOU PUT THE RULES IN PLACE AND OUR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES FACING THEIR WORST NIGHTMARE RELY ON YOU AND FOLLOW YOU-REMEMBER WITH GREAT LEADERSHIP COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY

    January 13, 2012 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
    • nsaidi

      Thanks for your comment. I'm going to send you an e-mail to the address you used here. Just a few thoughts, that's all. I can understand your frustration for sure.

      January 13, 2012 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. grace

    God Bless you SARAH

    January 13, 2012 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
  12. grace

    Lindsa so sorry about your mom that breaks my heart, you just never know what tomorrow will bring, GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY

    January 13, 2012 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  13. Spendlove

    Get well soon.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  14. government cheese

    Good luck with ObamaCare on its way.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. Depart2

    Get well soon Sarah. Her healthcare in Canada will pay some of the hospital bills but not all. Hopefully she had some form of travel insurance and from what I hear Canada healthcare is far worse than ours. Apparently you get what you pay for down there.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
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