Skier paralyzed after downhill crash 

Swiss racer slices through safety net

One of skiing’s fastest rising stars was paralyzed below the chest on Dec. 8 after he lost control on a bumpy downhill course at Val d’Isere, France, slicing through the safety net and flying into the forest on the side of the course.

Silvano Beltrametti fractured his vertebrae and severely injured his spinal cord between his shoulder blades on impact. His helmet shattered on impact and the force of the crash caused some bleeding in his lungs.

Medical teams attended the 22 year old within minutes, but because of his awkward location and the extent of the injury, it took more than an hour to stabilize him enough that he could be flown by helicopter to a hospital in Grenoble. There was nothing they could do for his paralysis, although doctors say he will live.

If he wasn’t wearing a back brace at the time of the injury, Swiss team doctor Thierry Maitre told the press the injury could have been worse.

"Maybe the break could have been higher, maybe he could have torn the aorta, in which case it would have been difficult to survive," he said.

Maitre was at the scene, administering intravenous drugs and oxygen.

The day before the accident, Beltrametti won a bronze medal in the super-G. He was the 14 th starter in the downhill after a strong run in training.

Beltrametti was definitely on the road to greatness. In his rookie season last year he won the silver in a downhill at Lake Louise and finished fourth in the downhill at the world championships in St. Anton, Austria.

He had also had several serious downhill accidents, breaking his wrist after a fall in Switzerland and fracturing a vertebrae, also in Switzerland, after crashing in the finish area at Wengen.

Beltrametti was stabilized and transferred to a facility in Nottwil, Switzerland. According to Maitre, his paralysis is irreversible, although the true extent of the injury has yet to be ascertained.

This is the second serious accident in alpine skiing in less than two months. On Oct. 31, French world champion Regine Cavagnoud died as a result of head injuries she sustained two days earlier after colliding into a German coach during a training run in Austria.

Also at Val d’Isere, Austrian Heinz Chilchegger tore ligaments in his left knee on Sunday during a crash in the giant slalom.

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