Snowmobiler Caleb Moore died this morning, as a result of injuries suffered during a crash last week in the Winter X Games. It was the first death in 17 years of the event.
A week ago today, 25-year-old Moore crashed hard in the X Games snowmobile freestyle contest. After a handful of successful jumps, he under-rotated a backflip, causing the skis of his sled to dig into the lip of the landing ramp and him to be bucked from it like a rodeo cowboy. Moore tumbled down the ramp, his 450-pound snowmobile somersaulting after him until it slammed into him, knocking him unconscious.
He suffered a concussion in the crash and was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital, where later that night, doctors discovered bleeding around his heart. Friday morning, he was Medevac’d to Grand Junction’s St. Mary’s Hospital for emergency heart surgery. The cardiac injury apparently led to a secondary complication involving his brain, according to a family spokesperson.
Then, on Monday, Moore’s grandfather told The Denver Post, "Caleb is not doing good at all. The prognosis is not good at all. It's almost certain he's not going to make it." Early this afternoon, his family released a statement announcing his death.
As typically happens after such horrible incidents, many are questioning the safety of extreme sports contests like the X Games. What crazy trick, which over-the-top sport is simply too dangerous for its participants? And is the pressure to perform ever-more difficult tricks healthy? “Should we be asking these questions?” Northeastern University’s Dan Lebowitz asked the Associated Press. “We absolutely should be.” Lebowitz is the executive director of Sport in Society at Northeastern, which examines the role of sports to promote healthy development and social responsibility.
“How do we maintain safety in that progression,” he continued, “when that progression sometimes pushes every envelope to some amazingly extreme point?” And he has a point. Part of the fascination of the Ringling-style aerials performed in both Summer and Winter X Games is, if one is to be honest, morbid. Bone-jarring, cover-your-eyes crashes seem to be de rigueur. Among the other injuries suffered at this year’s games were a concussion, a separated pelvis (that was Moore’s younger brother, Colten) and a lumbar spine fracture.
In a statement, X Games officials defended the contest, saying they've worked hard on safety issues over the contest’s 18-year history: "We've worked closely with athletes, risk management specialists, sport organizers and event managers to present the best possible experience for athletes and spectators. Further measures are constantly being evaluated."
ESPN said in a statement today that is will conduct a thorough safety review of the snowmobiling discipline and adopt any necessary changes to make it safer for the athletes. "Still, when the world's best compete at the highest level in any sport, risks remain. Caleb was a four-time X Games medalist attempting a move he has landed several times previously."
And the athletes, for their part, tend to agree with that sentiment, accepting the risk and defending their respective sports. “You don’t want to live your life in fear because of a situation,” snowmobiler Levi LaVallee told the AP. “Look, I’m driving down the road right now and the worst-case scenario is a car could swerve over into my lane and run over me—there it is, end of the road.”
Here's a short bio video from ESPN: