5 Snowboarders Who Sustained Brutal Injuries (and Survived)
In 2008, The Centers for Disease Control reported that more people are injured while snowboarding than during any other outdoor activity. Furthermore, the National Ski Areas Association recently noted that more than 400 snowboarding fatalities have occurred during the last decade. Any experienced boarder will attest to the inherent danger of this popular pastime – but these real-life survival stories are nothing short of miraculous.
In February 2011, Eric Cavalli, a freshman at UC Davis, was riding with some friends at Northstar-at-Tahoe. During a 40-foot jump attempt, the young man overshot the ramp and landed headfirst onto the freshly groomed snow. Ski patrol members ferried him to the nearby lodge, where he was then transported by helicopter to a medical center in Reno. Following emergency to mend a torn aorta, doctors began to note his extensive injuries: a broken collarbone, one cracked vertebra in his neck, two chipped vertebrae in his lower back, a blood clot in his forehead and damage to his spleen, liver, kidneys and lungs. Cavalli’s university and former high school raised close to $2,000 through the sale of ‘Shred for Eric’ bracelets; the money was donated to his family to assist with medical fees. Following several surgeries, Cavalli began responding to normal communications; doctors say, given his condition, the young man’s recovery went very well.
In August 2012, Richard Harwood of New Zealand was riding a rail at Cadrona Alpine Resort when he slipped and fell shoulder-first into the snow. The impact fractured his collarbone in three places and damaged his acromioclavicular joint; recalling the incident, Harwood told reporters that the bone was “sticking out” of his skin. Though he only spent one night in nearby Dunedin Hospital, he underwent surgery later that summer. Doctors outfitted his shoulder with six screws and a metal plate, and the young man was forced to miss eight months of work while he recovered. Today, he still feels the after-effects of his “pretty gnarly” injury – but the lingering pain hasn’t kept him from snowboarding.
In February 2011, Brooke Nisley, a high school junior from Wyoming, attended a class trip to Red Lodge Mountain Resort in Montana. During a snowboarding lesson, the young woman lost control and collided with a tree at full speed. The impact shattered her helmet, and Nisley was rendered unconscious. Upon arrival at Billings Clinic, doctors noted that the T-12 vertebra in her back had been crushed; individuals who suffer this injury are typically given a 1-in-10 chance of ever walking again. In addition to the spinal injury, Nisley sustained three broken ribs, bruised lungs, a serious concussion and lacerations to her liver and kidneys. In the days that followed her crash, doctors used bone fragments from one of her ribs to piece her T-12 back together. One week after the crash, Nisley was walking again – and one year later, she (and her snowboard) returned to Red Lodge.
Leading up to the 2010 Olympic trials, New Hampshire native Kevin Pearce spent more than a year perfecting his half-pipe maneuvers. Then, just five days before he was to compete, the 22-year-old struck his forehead on the ice while attempting a 1080 double cork. Pearce was rushed to a nearby hospital, where doctors discovered that the young man’s left eye socket was shattered and leaking blood into his brain. His condition stabilized two days later, but one week went by before he began to awake from his deep coma. Doctors warned Pearce’s parents that the young man might never be able to walk again. After several months of intense rehabilitation, he returned home – and during a trip to Breckenridge in December 2011, he snowboarded for the first time since the accident (though he says his half-pipe days are behind him).
In 2006, Englishman Mike Siddall, 23, and his brother took a snowboarding trip to Sass Fee, Switzerland. During a routine jump, the sports teacher and experienced boarder landed awkwardly in the snow. Then, he couldn’t move. After he was airlifted to the local hospital, doctors discovered that Siddall had fractured his spine. Though an operation to insert metal bars into his spine was successful, specialists told the young man that he was completely paralyzed from the accident – and would most likely never walk again. Never one to back away from a challenge, Siddall endured three months of intense physiological rehabilitation. Soon, he was able to wiggle his toes and fingers – and one year later, he was able to run. Despite losing much of his dexterity, as well as the ability to sense temperatures, Siddall has since returned to the slopes. In September 2012, he completed the Great North Run – and raised more than $2,000 for charity in the process.
While these five snowboarders survived their brutal injuries, many others have not been so lucky. Please ride safe this winter!