Part of the enjoyment that comes from visiting an amusement park is knowing that in some way, each ride will offer its own version of thrills and risks that we might not otherwise take in our everyday lives. A roller coaster gives you a controlled drop, a haunted house gives you a momentary scare, and a bungee cord gives you the feeling of free fall. Wisconsin Dells is the self-proclaimed ‘waterpark capital of the world’ near the center of the state primarily because the population of residents is almost smaller than the number of tourists who drop by to visit one of their many amusement park rides. Last year, a horrifying accident drew attention to the Dells experience in a way most people would never have expected.
Teagan Marti, a 12-year-old girl, was about to be dropped nearly 100-feet in a free fall ride called Terminal Velocity at Extreme World when someone failed to communicate that the net was too low to the ground (a precautionary measure that stands to be the most crucial role of an amusement park operator). Instead of bouncing up after the fall, Marti hit the pavement laying almost entirely still. With her daughter bloodied and struggling to breathe, Marti’s mother was heard crying, ‘Please don’t let my baby die, please don’t let my baby die.’ A MedFlight helicopter was hurried in to lift the girl to a nearby hospital where she remained in critical condition for several months. During that time, doctors noted injuries to her brain, spine, liver, and other organs with the likely potential for at least a partial paralysis. Included in the procedures she underwent were pelvic and back surgery.
Although the ride has an eight-year history without accident, it only takes one frightening moment to bring about concern. Marti, now 13, has finally returned home and undergoes constant rehabilitation. She will never fully recover, but so far, she’s proved the impossible is possible.
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Right now, police officer Bryan Lawrence is the talk of Roanoke, Virginia.
On May 10, 2008, Officer Lawrence was making an off-duty arrest when he was attacked and suffered a spinal injury that led to paralysis. At the time, he was well known as a community servant who would even buy roses on Mother’s Day for the ladies in a local nursing home. He spent time doing fundraisers for Alzheimer’s patients as well as working with those who battle autism and down syndrome. It should come as no surprise that he was also studying to be a minister and was an intern for several local churches. But he was paralyzed. And for most people, that would be the end.
Fast forward to February 2011 and he is not only walking again, but has never stopped his heart for ministry. During rehabilitation, he prayed with and encouraged other patients who were going through the same ordeal. His learned to walk with the help of crutches and pushed himself to recover against the odds of a miracle. And yes, that is what this now-ordained baptist minister is calling it: a miracle from the hand of God.
While it would be easy to believe that by ‘walking’, the implication is that Lawrence can only move a few steps here and there, but that would be a false impression. Last October, he walked a 3.1 mile race and proved not only to his community, but also to the nation that no injury has to be a death sentence. From start to finish, Lawrence has never put himself at the center of his life, but has, instead, focused on helping people around him even when his spine was so poorly damaged and paralysis appeared to be the end.
Now that Lawrence has retired with a pension from the Roanoke police force, he and his wife will be looking for a church where they believe God wants them to be. No doubt any church would benefit from such a man of faith. Amen to that.
In our previous article, the Brace Shop spoke of a recent study that seemed to declassify cheerleading from the list of sports activities even though by all definitive means, cheerleading squads have been competing against one another for more than 20 years. With the terms of cheerleading now defined, it’s important that we look for those most common injuries among the participants as well as the kinds of strategies that have been encouraged to limit severe, long-term problems.
One of the most recent and well-known groups active in the injury prevention world is STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention). When it comes to cheerleading, they have classified five primary (or most common) areas of the body that usually suffer: wrists, shoulders, ankles, head and neck. This isn’t to say that feet, elbows, and backs never get hurt during a cheerleading competition, but one can imagine that the five most common are more reflective of the way in which cheerleaders fall or ‘brace’ themselves for a fall (pun intended).
While most cheerleading squads are coached with correctly managed, but intensive training, here are a few strategies for limiting injuries either in practice or during a live event.
- Provide mats at all times, including practices and competitions (even circuses use a net for their acrobats)
- Avoid continued stunts if any member is excessively tired, already injured, or even minorly ill as this may be the cause for their own or another cheerleader’s accident.
- Ensure that stunts are in compliance with the restrictions on pyramids and basket tosses. An attempt to break these rules in search of a greater ‘wow’ factor is not a risk worth taking. There are other ways to ‘wow’ the judges.
A list of suggestions for injury prevention can always be added to, but this is a sufficient reminder, especially, for the young people who consider getting into cheerleading and aren’t quite sure what is safe and what is dangerous.
Cheerleading is not a sport. At least, that’s what the researchers of North Carolina’s National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research have implied in a recent study. This isn’t to say that they have ignored the facts. On the contrary, NCCIR is not in the business of determining what is and is not a sport. What they do is provide an account of any such activity that leads to catastrophic injury. And according to their 25th Annual Report, no female athletes are more severely injured from any other activity more than cheerleading.
More than half of all catastrophic and even more minor female injuries are due to cheerleading accidents. Acknowledged in the report is that cheerleading has really come a long way since its original inception. What was once a few high kicks and chants has now become an acrobatic powerhouse of visual, gymnastic performance requiring the most rigorous of training and athletic endurance. Cheerleaders don’t just stick to the sidelines anymore. On the contrary, squads now compete against one another to determine who has the most visually creative cheer.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a sport is ‘any physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively’. This last word is key. To go for a 3-mile run outside by yourself would be deemed nothing more than an extracurricular activity unless you have chosen to make that run against a competitor with specified rules in place. In the case of cheerleading, this is a little more tricky. When cheerleaders stick to the sidelines in support of a basketball or football team, they are not competing against the cheerleaders on the other side of the field or court. However, when cheerleaders come to center stage to perform for a set of judges who will make an objective assessment of their skills over another squad, then technically, they are participating in an athletic sport.
Part 2 will address some of the various injuries that come with cheerleading in America along with a few strategies on preventing future injuries of a catastrophic nature.
Toward the end of January, the Brace Shop shared an article about Wyoming legislation and one state senator in particular that aimed to clamp down on head injuries incurred by underage athletes. Senator Bill Landen was facing a rather ho-hum reaction from his colleagues but continued to believe that a congressional mandate for coaches to undergo specific training was another necessary step in the right direction. Arguably, the school districts had already taken it upon themselves to monitor this responsibility, but Landen wanted to go further. He’s not alone.
Down in Kansas, the issue isn’t all that different. Wichita Public Schools already have a requirement for coaches to receive additional training and for students who receive a concussion to gain written consent from their doctor before returning to whatever sport they play. But on Wednesday, Kansas senators passed a bill that would make such regulations and standards state-wide. The bill must now get approved in the House and receive the governor’s signature before it would become an official state law, but support has mobilized in favor of its passing. One story in particular was fairly motivating.
Nathan Stiles was a high school senior in northeast Kansas in 2010 who died after getting back on the field within a month of his concussion. Had a law like this been in place, Stiles would not have been permitted to re-enter so quickly and he might be a rookie star in college. The tragedy, of course, is that death can often be a tricky cause for initiating policies that affect the greater public. But whether or not the law passes in Kansas, it’s clear that states in the midwest are taking the head injury problem seriously. Others may soon follow.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were the youngest Olympic ice dance champions in history last year (not to mention the first North Americans to win gold), but Virtue is now resting a quad injury that already sidelined their shot at a Four Continents championship and may give them a few headaches throughout 2011. All the way back in 2008, Virtue had surgery to release a growing pressure that was mounting in her chins after an overuse injury acquired as a teenager. Although the surgery did not settle down the pain, Moir-Virtue chose to keep the issue silent for fear that they might lose a step against competitors.
At each mark along their successful journey, the challenges became more and more difficult, leading Virtue to the most trivial of problems like walking through a shopping mall or going to grab a bite to eat. Once it became a challenge to do simple tasks, it was time for her to get on the mend and focus on real recovery. Turns out, avoiding any time for rest caused the pressure in her chin to spread all the way into her calves, requiring an even greater urgency for time off and a second surgery. Now that Virtue has had that surgery, things have changed quite a bit.
For the last year, they have both been able to recuperate their minds and bodies for a return to skating glory. And the dancing world will gladly welcome them back. Only time will tell how ‘back’ they are when this darling couple walk out onto the ice hand-in-hand for the first time in over a year.
Legendary NASCAR Driver, Dale Earnhardt, Died on February 18, 2001
When it comes to NASCAR, we usually don’t think of minimal injuries. Only life-ending crashes. After all, drivers are almost entirely plastered to their seats with little room to move, meaning that any major injury would result from wherever the car either crumbles onto a driver or, more likely, when the driver’s head hits the steering wheel during a head-on collision. Dale Earnhardt may not have been everyone’s favorite race car driver, but he was a man’s man with incomparible gravitas before dying in Daytona when he hit the wall at an estimated speed of 155 to 160 mph. Today marks the 10-year anniversay of his death and the final weekday before the 2011 Daytona 500 returns on Sunday.
The lessons learned from that February accident in 2001 are pretty simple. If we’re going to call NASCAR a sport people should enjoy watching without thinking of it as a game where people die in the process, then it’s essential that the cars be safer and the drivers be more protected. Fortunately, this is exactly what the Earnhardt accident has fixed. The cars have been redesigned each year since 2002, a new HANS device has become mandatory for each car (which secures the head and neck from sudden collision), softer walls, and dozens of innovative creations have allowed drivers to race without as much fear that an unexpected pull to the wall will bring an end to their lives.
No, the Brace Shop doesn’t design cars or the sell the HANS device (not yet at least), but we want to encourage our readers to enjoy a new season of NASCAR as it begins this sunday. As you recall the life and death of Dale Earnhardt, listen for the engines of a new generation of drivers who would only make him proud if he were around today.
Spiderman on Broadway is Proving to be Dangerous for Actors
This is not your Tobey Maguire version of Spiderman. No. Accidents can’t be swept under the rug as part of a second, third, or fourth take. This is Spiderman on Broadway. A live rendition of incredibly dangerous performances that usually belong to those who work in a circus or an acrobatic troupe. And as imagined, injuries have been mounting.
During rehearsals last year, two stunt doubles (who add the wow factor to the show) were injured, prompting the New York Department of Labor to review the safety precautions for the set. One of the men injured had broken both wrists while another had broken both feet.
Then there was an actress who endured a concussion after being hit in the head with equipment during a preview performance. Having not fully recovered, she went back on stage for a second preview performance and became sick-to-her-stomach, requiring an understudy to fill big shoes.
Then there was the stuntman who visited the hospital after falling more than 20 feet from a detached cable, drawing the show to an abrubt close. And then there was… well, you get the idea.
If you’ve ever walked broadway and gone to see a show, then you can understand that performers, directors, and set workers don’t have the luxury of ‘next time’. Each night has to be flawless or the critical reception will plummet. For Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the critics have been back and forth, considering that this is the most expensive broadway musical in New York’s history and injuries seem to run wild for the actors.
Not that Brace Shop readers will be falling from 20-foot drops anytime in the near future, but for those who do happen to suffer from a broken or sprained wrist, we offer quite a few splints to help restore movement to a crucial part of your body.
Last August, when Atlanta Braves’ third baseman Chipper Jones went out with a season-ending knee injury, several commentators thought it might be the end of his career as well. After all, the man is a 38-year old baseball player with plenty of reasons to hang up his hat and call it a day, not the least of which is a torn ACL. Answering questions about whether he would come back, Jones said, “I don’t know. I’m gonna have to wait and see how the rehab goes. I don’t really want to make a decision when I’m at a low point like this. If the rehab goes well and I feel confident going into next February, I will probably give it a whirl.”
Well, it’s next February. And he’s back. He took a few turns at bat, snatched up a few grounders at third base, and showed signs that he was about 80% better. Unlike football or hockey, both contact sports, baseball is game that can be played with men who aren’t in their best physical condition. As the season nears, he’ll only get better and the former MVP and NL batting champion shows few indications that he plans to sit this one in the dugout.
This is not the first time that Jones has battled a torn ACL. The first time this happened was 1994 and the physical pain could be felt far more than this time around. In fact, when word came down in August that the damage was season-ending and was equal to his 1994 injury, Jones was surprised. “I didn’t have the [same] amount of pain or swelling right off the bat.” (try to ignore the pun) In other words, one torn ACL didn’t feel as bad as the other torn ACL. Still, the degree of damage isn’t much different.
When he returned to the field this week, he did much of it for show, suggesting that fans need to see him getting back to work. Unfortunately, he said, there are still days when it hurts to get out of bed.
The Brace Shop offers more than 30 products uniquely tailored for those who are working to restore full mobility to a damaged ACL. Please visit our selection if you or someone you know could use a little help.
Good for her. A wave of criticism was hurled at the doctors who cleared Lindsey Vonn to ski after what was deemed a mild concussion just days before. Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, has used much of his tenure to clamp down on the laxness that comes with putting athletes back to work after a head injury and the same kind of clamping ought to take place in the ski world as well. Fortunately, Vonn had the good sense to choose this out on her own. On February 9, the Brace Shop issued an article urging this star Olympic skier to think twice about getting back on the slopes too quickly. And after coming to a decision, Vonn fans could empathize with her sadness:
“It’s been a really difficult few weeks and at every stage, I’ve had 100 percent confidence in the medical advice I’ve been provided and believe we’ve made the right decisions. I’m a competitor … that’s what makes this a really tough choice, but I do feel it’s the right one.” In this case, the decision can’t really be the wrong one.
Vonn has a long list of accolades to her credit and no one can possibly fault her for taking the high road of good health. Skiing is a sport. A game. If she were to hit her head again so quickly after a recent concussion, her entire life could well be flipped upside down. If there’s a fan out there who thinks she betrayed the sport by sitting out for a little while longer, just ask yourself, what would you do if it was your life on the line?
Happy Valentine’s Day, Lindsey. Get some rest.