KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Even though he's only 20 years old, American snowboarder Trevor Jacob admits his memory is already a little fuzzy, the result of at least 25 concussions.
"I don't remember a whole lot," Jacob said Monday, days before he'll make his Olympics debut in the snowboard cross event in Sochi.
Jacob laughed as he said it, but head injuries are a hot topic here, a day after Czech snowboarder Sarka Pancochova cracked her helmet after taking a nasty fall during the women's slopestyle final. Pancochova was not treated on the course and slid her way to the finish area, where she woozily stood with fellow competitors until she was knocked out of medal contention.
American riders know that head injuries are among the dangers that come with extreme sports, though Jacob said not all of his concussions occurred on snow. Jacob also participates in Nitro Circus, a TV series and live tour in which participants do crazy tricks and stunts on skateboards and dirt bikes.
"I've done other sports that are more dangerous," Jacob said.
The danger of snowboarding, particularly of snowboard cross in which six racers fly down the course at the same time, is what drew Nick Baumgartner to it in the first place. He even encourages changes to the support that would make it even more dangerous.
But that doesn't mean that Baumgartner, a 32-year-old father, is laughing about concussions like Jacob was. Baumgartner said he was knocked out during a race for the first time in his life earlier this year. American riders take baseline tests before the season, and must be cleared by a doctor before returning to competition. Athletes then are tested again three weeks after all concussion symptoms have cleared, veteran rider Lindsey Jacobellis said.
For Baumgartner, that wasn't enough.
"Actually when I did my test, I passed all of them, and I kept asking him [the doctor], 'Can you send me more tests?' I really wanted to be in the next race, but I want to make sure that I'm OK," Baumgartner said. "A broken bone you can fix, but if you break your head, you're not going to be fixable."