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Sarah Burke Update: Freestyler Skier Remains Critical After Surgery

Sarah Burke Update Skier Surgeryt

By LYNN DeBRUIN   01/12/12 07:12 PM ET   AP

SALT LAKE CITY -- Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke remained in critical condition Thursday after a successful operation to repair a tear to an artery that caused bleeding in her brain.

Doctors put her into a coma to decrease swelling and pressure on her brain after her accident Tuesday, and she had surgery the next day.

"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 Couldwell, the neurosurgeon who performed the operation, in a statement released by Burke's publicist. "Our neuro critical care team will be monitoring her condition and response continuously over the coming hours and days."

Burke, a four-time Winter X Games champion in halfpipe skiing and one of the leading pioneers of her sport, injured herself while practicing on the halfpipe in Park City.

She tore a vertebral artery, which is located in the neck and supplies blood to the brainstem and the back part of the brain. Those parts control many critical functions, including balance and vision.

Tears can cause bleeding that disrupts blood flow to the brain, which in serious cases can lead to brain damage or death, said Dr. Andrew Naidech, medical director of the neuro-spine intensive care unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

He said those tears can be caused by severe twisting motions or impact causing sudden up-and-down movement of the head. Outcomes depend on how badly the damage interrupted blood flow to the brain or caused extensive bleeding.

Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian freestyle team, said those who were near the superpipe when Burke fell told him it didn't look like a major accident at the time.

Burke tried many of the toughest tricks in her sport and was the first woman to land a 1080 – three full revolutions – in competition. It was not known what move she was performing when the accident happened.

___

Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner in Chicago contributed to this report.

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  • Sarah Burke

    Sarah Burke of Canada skis to seventh place in the halfpipe finals of the FIS Freestyle World Cup at the VISA US Freeskiing Grand Prix on December 9, 2011 in Copper Mountain, Colorado.

  • Men's and Women's FIS Freestyle World Cup Halfpipe Finals

    Sarah Burke of Canada prepares for halfpipe finals as she finished seventh in the FIS Freestyle World Cup at the VISA US Freeskiing Grand Prix on December 9, 2011 in Copper Mountain, Colorado.

  • Canadian Sarah Burke jubilates on the po

    Canadian Sarah Burke jubilates on the podium after winning the men's freestyle superpipe World Cup, and the Globe de Cristal 2011, on March 20, 2011, in La Plagne, French Alps.

  • FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup - Men and Women's Half Pipe

    Sarah Burke of Canada takes 1st place during the FIS Freestyle World Cup Men's and Women's Halfpipe on March 20, 2011 in La Plagne, France.

  • 32nd Annual Salute To Women In Sports - Inside

    Skier Sarah Burke attends the 32nd Annual Salute To Women In Sports Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on October 19, 2011 in New York City.

  • 32nd Annual Salute To Women In Sports - Inside

    Skier Sarah Burke attends the 32nd Annual Salute To Women In Sports Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on October 19, 2011 in New York City.

  • The 2011 ESPY Awards - Arrivals

    Skier Sarah Burke arrives at The 2011 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.

  • The 2011 ESPY Awards - Arrivals

    Skier Sarah Burke arrives at The 2011 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.

  • FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup - Men and Women's Half Pipe

    Sarah Burke of Canada takes 1st place during the FIS Freestyle World Cup Men's and Women's Halfpipe on March 20, 2011 in La Plagne, France.

  • FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup - Men and Women's Half Pipe

    Sarah Burke of Canada takes 1st place during the FIS Freestyle World Cup Men's and Women's Halfpipe on March 20, 2011 in La Plagne, France.

  • FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup - Men and Women's Half Pipe

    Sarah Burke of Canada takes 1st place during the FIS Freestyle World Cup Men's and Women's Halfpipe on March 20, 2011 in La Plagne, France.

  • FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup - Men and Women's Half Pipe

    Sarah Burke of Canada takes 1st place during the FIS Freestyle World Cup Men's and Women's Halfpipe on March 20, 2011 in La Plagne, France.

  • FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup - Men and Women's Half Pipe

    LA PLAGNE, FRANCE - MARCH 20: (FRANCE OUT) Sarah Burke of Canada takes 1st place during the FIS Freestyle World Cup Men's and Women's Halfpipe on March 20, 2011 in La Plagne, France. (Photo by Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

  • FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup - Men and Women's Half Pipe

    LA PLAGNE, FRANCE - MARCH 20: (FRANCE OUT) Sarah Burke of Canada takes 1st place during the FIS Freestyle World Cup Men's and Women's Halfpipe on March 20, 2011 in La Plagne, France. (Photo by Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

  • FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup - Men and Women's Half Pipe

    LA PLAGNE, FRANCE - MARCH 20: (FRANCE OUT) Sarah Burke of Canada takes 1st place, Devin Logan of USA takes 2nd place, Anais Caradeux of France takes 3rd place during the FIS Freestyle World Cup Men's and Women's Halfpipe on March 20, 2011 in La Plagne, France. (Photo by Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

  • Canadian Sarah Burke competes during the

    Canadian Sarah Burke competes during the Ladies' freestyle skiing halfpipe final as part of the FIS free style World Cup on March 20, 2011 in the French ski resort of La Plagne. Burke won the event. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT (Photo credit should read JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • (LtoR) French Anais Caradeux, Canadian S

    (LtoR) French Anais Caradeux, Canadian Sarah Burke and US Davin Logan pose on the podium after women's Ski Superpipe final of the European Winter X-Games, on March 18, 2011 in the French Alps ski resort of Tignes. Burke won the event ahead of Caradeux and Logan. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT (Photo credit should read JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships

    PARK CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 05: Sarah Burke #18 of Canada competes in the Ladies' Half Pipe final at the FIS Freestyle World Championships at Park City Mountain Resort on February 5, 2011 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

  • 30th Annual Salute To Women In Sports Awards - Inside

    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13: Skier Sarah Burke speaks onstage during the 30th Annual Salute To Women In Sports Awards at The Waldorf=Astoria on October 13, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for the Women�s Sports Foundation)

  • 30th Annual Salute To Women In Sports Awards - Red Carpet

    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13: Skier Sarah Burke attends the 30th Annual Salute To Women In Sports Awards at The Waldorf=Astoria on October 13, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for the Women�s Sports Foundation)

  • Winter X Games Day 2

    ASPEN, CO - JANUARY 23: Sarah Burke participates in the Women's Skiing Superpipe Final on her way to winning the gold during Winter X Games 13 January 23, 2009 at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, Colorado. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

  • Winter X Games Day 2

    ASPEN, CO - JANUARY 23: Sarah Burke of Whistler, Canada poses with her gold medal after winning the Women's Skiing Superpipe at Winter X Games 13 on Buttermilk Mountain on January 23, 2009 in Aspen, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

  • Winter X Games Day 2

    ASPEN, CO - JANUARY 23: Sarah Burke celebrates after winning the gold in the Women's Skiing Superpipe Final during Winter X Games 13 January 23, 2009 at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, Colorado. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

  • Winter X Games Day 2

    ASPEN, CO - JANUARY 23: Sarah Burke of Whistler, Canada celebrates as she takes the podium after winning the gold medal in the Women's Skiing Superpipe at Winter X Games 13 on Buttermilk Mountain on January 23, 2009 in Aspen, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

  • Sarah Burke celebrates on the podium after her victory during the Ladies' freestyle skiing halfpipe final as part of the FIS free style World Cup on March 20, 2011 in the French ski resort of La Plagne. Burke won the event. (JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Sarah Burke arrives at the premiere of ESPN Films & Walt Disney Pictures' 'X Games 3D: The Movie' held at Nokia Theatre LA Live on July 30, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

  • Sarah Burke, snowboarders Torah Bright and Hannah Teter attend the 29th annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards presented by the Women's Sports Foundation at The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on October 14, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for WSF)

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Filed by Chris Greenberg  |