Lindsey Vonn likely to skip next event
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany -- Lindsey Vonn is still struggling to recover from a mild concussion -- so much so, the reigning overall World Cup champion will likely skip her next event at the world championships or possibly withdraw.
The super-combined on Friday is probably off her schedule.
"It's not official yet, but it's looking like that," Vonn's husband and chief adviser, Thomas Vonn, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "If she comes out tomorrow and feels great and does a fast training session we could re-evaluate, but it's unlikely at this point that she'll compete in combined."
Vonn crashed and landed on her head in a spectacular fall in giant slalom training a week ago in Austria. She immediately had a CAT scan and was cleared to compete.
But she clearly was not herself in the opening super-G on Tuesday, finishing seventh. She said she couldn't ski her best: "It's like I'm skiing in a fog."
"I can't process the information fast enough, and that's why I'm behind the course, all the bumps are throwing me around," she said Tuesday after the race. "It's because my body is one gate ahead of where my mind is."
On Wednesday, Lindsey and Thomas Vonn agreed she shouldn't have raced.
"Nobody wants her to go into it if she's not fully healthy. But the day before, the way she was training, I would have been willing to bet that she was going to win," Thomas Vonn said. "But then she took a few steps backward. I don't know what it was, whether it was just the stress of a world championships race or what. But no one but her and myself make the final decision for her to go into the start."
On Wednesday night, Vonn planned to meet with U.S. team doctor William Sterett for another evaluation. Because Sterett is primarily an orthopedic surgeon, Thomas Vonn said they were considering a specialist.
"Even if they brought in the world's best specialist, they would probably tell her the same thing: Rest until it feels better," Thomas Vonn said. "The problem is, it's not like there's a pill you can take. With the brain, there's just not much of a way to know when it's better."
U.S. women's head coach Alex Hoedlmoser said the final decision lies with the racer, and the team's concussion protocol is the same as the NHL and NFL.
"We cannot look inside of her head," the coach said. "She was cleared -- we did several tests with her -- but it's a concussion, you cannot look inside the brain and you cannot look inside of the athlete. If she says she's fine we have to believe it, because we cannot feel her pain or how she feels."
Playing through symptoms is dangerous in any sport, regardless of how much contact there is, said Mark Lovell, the founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program.
"You're rolling the dice, betting you're not going to get hit again," he said. "Depending on the sport, the odds of getting hit vary, but the risk is still there."
And even if an athlete doesn't get hit in the head again, playing through symptoms often worsens them, Lovell said.
U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association president and CEO Bill Marolt refused to discuss Vonn's injury.
"I don't have anything to say about that," he told the AP.
Other American racers were also hesitant to comment.
"All of us just kind of shake our head at it," said World Cup giant slalom champion Ted Ligety. "I shouldn't say anything -- you can't comment on other people's injuries -- but all I know is lots of people ski with lots of bad injuries and nobody says anything."
Hoedlmoser said Vonn would never skip a race, especially at world championships, unless she wasn't feeling well.
"But if it doesn't make sense, if she's not 100 percent, then don't just go out there, because you need to be 100 percent," Hoedlmoser said. "[The course] is very, very challenging -- bumpy, icy, long -- so she needs to be 100 percent in order to do well, or to manage it."
Vonn will likely try downhill training Thursday and re-evaluate. She already skipped the opening downhill training session Wednesday. She would need to enter at least one training session to be able to compete in the super-combined on Friday or the downhill on Sunday.
"She's prepared to skip races at this point, if necessary," said Thomas Vonn, a former U.S. Ski Team racer. "It doesn't make sense to risk your life, especially on a slope that is prepared like this. We both feel it's overdone and dangerous."
Vonn's problems on Tuesday began with the pre-race course inspection, which is a key factor in the super-G because there are no training runs.
"It just drained her. You have to absorb so much information in 1½ hours and normally she's very good at that," Thomas Vonn said. "But the way she explained it to me was, 'It feels like I only have so much concentration per day and the course inspection ate it all up.'"
At this point, Vonn's focus may be on defending her title in the downhill on Sunday. She also won gold in the event at the Vancouver Olympics. After that, the remaining events are slalom and giant slalom.
"We're not looking beyond the downhill now," Thomas Vonn said. "It's very unpredictable. She could feel great again and finish up with a great championships, or we could be pulling out of the rest of the championships and just rest up for the end of World Cup.
"She felt pretty good all day today. She had no headaches and no fog. It's just a question of whether she's better enough for a race situation," he said.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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