Many athletes are putting their bodies on the line as they train for the upcoming winter Olympics. But new research shows that snowboarders and skiers may be at a higher risk of brain injury than other competitors—even if they don’t suffer a serious accident.

According to researchers at the University of New Mexico, the injury rate at one ski resort more than doubled after snowboarders were allowed on the slopes. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, discovered that closed head injuries jumped from 9.3 to 19.5 per 100,000 visits in March 2008, with the majority of head injuries involving concussion-type symptoms.

The focus of the research is not one major injury incident, but the cumulative effect of several smaller head injuries over time. Consider the injuries sustained by young winter athletes:

  • 26-year-old Kevin Pearce had suffered six concussions in training before an accident in 2009 caused a traumatic brain injury. Pearce suffered memory loss and had to relearn how to read. He spent years in physical therapy to improve his motor skills.
  • Snowboarder Shaun White estimates that he has suffered nine concussions over the course of his career, while Scotty Lago, an Olympic bronze medalist in the snowboard halfpipe, claims to have had six or seven.
  • Four gold medalists from this year's X Games competition had suffered more than four concussions each.

Concussion research in athletes has traditionally focused on impact sports such as football, so the effect of a lifetime of concussions for skiers remains unknown. One potential problem identified in NFL players is chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease that occurs in people who suffer repeated concussions and head trauma. Symptoms often include dementia, memory loss, anxiety, depression, or problems maneuvering the body.

If someone you know has suffered a concussion, please feel free to share this article with them via email or Facebook. For more information on getting justice after a serious head injury, contact Gray and White today at 888-450-4456 to speak with an attorney about your case.

Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law

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