Sarah Burke undergoes operation to repair vertebral artery

Published: Thursday, Jan. 12 2012 4:07 p.m. MST

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. Freeskier Sarah Burke was seriously injured in a crash January 10, 2012 in Park City, Utah and was airlifted to Salt Lake City.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

<p>SALT LAKE CITY — Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke underwent a successful operation that repaired a torn artery in her head Wednesday.

Surgeons successfully repaired a tear to Burke's vertebral artery, which resulted in an intracranial hemorrhage at the time of her fall on Tuesday. Burke reportedly fell after landing a trick in the superpipe at Park City Mountain Resort. She was training for the X Games at the popular superpipe.

Burke, known as a pioneer in the sport and the reigning champion of ski superpipe at Winter X Games, is listed in critical condition at University Hospital.

"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, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of Neurosurgery at the University of Utah. "Our Neuro Critical Care team will be monitoring her condition and response continuously over the coming hours and days."

Sarah's family is grateful for the overwhelming outpouring of support from around the globe. Fans may continue to use Sarah's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sarah-Burke/50553451173 to express their wishes and receive updates.

Her Facebook was filled with wishes of love and hope from around the world — inside and outside the ski community. Just as athletes did when snowboarder Kevin Pearce was critically injured at PCMR's superpipe two months before the 2010 Winter Olympics, individuals are sporting "I ski for Sarah" stickers and logos. Friends and fellow athletes wore stickers that said, "I ride for Kevin" after his operation.

Burke isn't just one of the sport's most successful skiers, she is one of its greatest advocates and a true pioneer.

"In many ways, Sarah defines the sport," said Canadian Freestyle Ski Association CEO Peter Judge. "She was one of the first people to get into the pipe and bring skis to the pipe. She's always been very dedicated in trying to define her sport, and it's never been about just winning. It's been about pushing the limits. She's always been more concerned about making herself the best, rather than comparing herself to other people."

email: adonaldson@desnews.com

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