American Figure Skater Crashes Headfirst Into The Ice, Referee Allows Her To Continue

Sylvia

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Starting a separate news/discussion thread from the U.S. Pairs thread (since not everyone will see the news in there) with Deadspin's dramatic article headline yesterday since the news of Ashley Cain's accident at Golden Spin of Zagreb yesterday appears to be spreading in news media outlets today (ETA: just saw a Hungarian article with a tabloid-y headline that includes the words "... huge scandal, the internet exploded") and video is being widely shared online (134,459 views & counting for the original YT one, referenced below).

Deadspin's Dvora Meyers wrote this article yesterday and excerpted relevant parts of both the ISU & Skate Canada rulebooks (video of the scary accident is embedded here): https://deadspin.com/american-figure-skater-crashes-head-first-into-the-ice-1830950876
Though the fall was horrific and Cain appeared visibly dazed after getting up from the ice, the pair finished their program. This made for jarring viewing, even if it was just athletes continuing their program as they’re trained to do, but it was abundantly clear that someone should’ve intervened and halted the program so that Cain could receive proper treatment on the ice. That someone, it turns out, was the referee.

According to the International Skating Union’s rulebook, the referee has the power to stop a program if there is a medical emergency.
ISU Rule 515, part 5:

If, in the opinion of the Referee, medical attention is required, he must stop the performance by an acoustic signal and follow the Medical Protocol (Communication 2049 or any update thereof) The Referee, after consulting with the respective Team Physician, or, if not present, the medical doctor provided by the Organizer, he will decide if the Competitor is allowed back to compete. If the Referee does not allow the skater to resume within 3 minutes since he stopped skating his program the competitor will be considered withdrawn.


Reuters provided an update in their article today: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-...n-suffers-nasty-fall-in-croatia-idUSKBN1O702Q
Cain said on Twitter [via USFS] that she had been released from hospital and would continue her recovery back home.

“Thank you for all of your love and for supporting us! The medical team and staff were wonderful,” she said.
USFS' 2-part tweet last night: https://twitter.com/USFigureSkating/status/1071260892296183809
(1/2) Message from @icegirlash:

“Hey everyone, thank you so much for all of the well wishes and for checking in. It really means a lot to us. I got checked out at the hospital and I am going to continue my recovery back home.”

(2/2) “Thank you for all of your love and for supporting us! The medical team and staff were wonderful❤️”
 
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Karen-W

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Good! I'm glad this is getting some media attention! Maybe that will prompt the ISU and USFSA to change their concussion protocols. And, I certainly hope, help change the culture in skating toward potential concussions.
 

nimi

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The Deadspin writer makes a good point comparing the relevant ISU and Skate Canada rules. It's problematic that ISU has the "If, in the opinion of the Referee, medical attention is required" formulation, given that the Referees aren't required to be medical professionals. Are they even required to undergo any meaningful training about concussions and head injuries? Does anybody know?

I think the Canadian formulation ("if the referee feels there is a possible head injury or concern of concussion or if advised by medical, they should blow the whistle or stop the music to signal to the skater(s) to stop skating") is a lot better and gives some actual useful guidance. I.e. if you're a referee and you feel somebody might have hit their head, you should intervene.
 

mysticchic

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The Deadspin writer makes a good point comparing the relevant ISU and Skate Canada rules. It's problematic that ISU has the "If, in the opinion of the Referee, medical attention is required" formulation, given that the Referees aren't required to be medical professionals. Are they even required to undergo any meaningful training about concussions and head injuries? Does anybody know?

I think the Canadian formulation ("if the referee feels there is a possible head injury or concern of concussion or if advised by medical, they should blow the whistle or stop the music to signal to the skater(s) to stop skating") is a lot better and gives some actual useful guidance. I.e. if you're a referee and you feel somebody might have hit their head, you should intervene.
She didn't move until Tim lifts her and she was out of it. The whistle should have been blown while she was down face first on the ice. No if and about it. I am horrified they let that go and even her coaches (parents) allowed it to be continued.
 

Enchanted

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It might also be important to teach skaters first aid skills. I believe the way LeDuc was lifting her was not the correct way to lift a possibly unconscious person whose had a head injury.

Here are some tips for how to deal with head injuries. Not sure how correct they are.
 
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Karen-W

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The Deadspin writer makes a good point comparing the relevant ISU and Skate Canada rules. It's problematic that ISU has the "If, in the opinion of the Referee, medical attention is required" formulation, given that the Referees aren't required to be medical professionals. Are they even required to undergo any meaningful training about concussions and head injuries? Does anybody know?

I think the Canadian formulation ("if the referee feels there is a possible head injury or concern of concussion or if advised by medical, they should blow the whistle or stop the music to signal to the skater(s) to stop skating") is a lot better and gives some actual useful guidance. I.e. if you're a referee and you feel somebody might have hit their head, you should intervene.
IMO, neither rule goes far enough. There shouldn't be any "opinion" or "feels" about it. Very clearly, Ashley hit her head and at that point the program SHOULD have been stopped by the referee. It wasn't until the sports' governing bodies made the rules about medical treatment of head injuries crystal clear that things really began to change in sports like football and hockey. There has been a perceptible shift in the culture of those sports in the last five years, as noted in one of the other discussions about this accident and the referee's inaction yesterday, toward concussions and immediate examination of the athlete. I don't expect figure skating to necessarily be at the vanguard of this topic but with some of the horrific injuries we have seen, especially to the head and in pairs skating in particular, it certainly appears that skating is way behind. The rules need to be changed so that it is mandatory that the program be stopped. And, honestly, when two skaters crash into each other during warm up or official practice time and a head injury is suspected a la Hanyu, the referee should probably also be empowered to prevent a skater from taking the ice until they have received medical clearance.
 

skatesindreams

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The rules need to be changed so that it is mandatory that the program be stopped. And, honestly, when two skaters crash into each other during warm up or official practice time and a head injury is suspected a la Hanyu, the referee should probably also be empowered to prevent a skater from taking the ice until they have received medical clearance.
This speaks for me.
 

nimi

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There has been a perceptible shift in the culture of those sports in the last five years, as noted in one of the other discussions about this accident and the referee's inaction yesterday, toward concussions and immediate examination of the athlete. I don't expect figure skating to necessarily be at the vanguard of this topic but with some of the horrific injuries we have seen, especially to the head and in pairs skating in particular, it certainly appears that skating is way behind. The rules need to be changed so that it is mandatory that the program be stopped.
ITA. I don't know who the referee was here, but I imagine there are quite a few ISU referees out there who grew up at a time and place where the general attitude towards concussions was very ignorant ("Oh, she got knocked out for a while but then she got back up on her feet? I guess it's okay then. Carry on") and who are still somewhat stuck in that mindset. That will affect the way they act (or DON'T act)... UNLESS the organization they work for makes it very clear that yes, they are expected to ACT and not just sit there and watch.

Which is why I hope the public conversation will move towards making the ISU rules and policies better. Getting rid of this particular referee (or blaming Ashley's parents) does nothing to address the wider problem.

Btw, are there any posters here familiar with e.g. the Russian skating world? Has there been similar discussion and cultural shift re: head injuries like in USA/Canada around football/hockey?
 

chachacha

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She didn't move until Tim lifts her and she was out of it. The whistle should have been blown while she was down face first on the ice. No if and about it. I am horrified they let that go and even her coaches (parents) allowed it to be continued.
That’s what is so crazy! That the Coach did nothing either and that’s her parents. How awful that no one not even her parents did nothing to stop them. Is finishing a program more important then their own child’s well being? Just terrible all around
 

Carolla5501

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Is there even a way for the coach to stop the program at any point? . I’ve never heard of one. I’m wondering if her father would have liked to stop the program (I’m assuming he was with them) and not been able to because there’s no way for him to signal that he doesn’t think his skaters capable of continuing.


However I agree the referee should be called on the carpet in this case. Based on what I have read the skate to should not have continued.
 

Aceon6

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@chachacha They we’re at the boards at the other end of the rink. It’s not like a practice rink where folks can just run around it... there’s tons of equipment, cables, cameras, and other stuff in the way. Even if they screamed, they may not have been heard over the music.

As I said in the other thread, the referee has the whistle and should have used it.
 

Carolla5501

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@chachacha They we’re at the boards at the other end of the rink. It’s not like a practice rink where folks can just run around it... there’s tons of equipment, cables, cameras, and other stuff in the way. Even if they screamed, they may not have been heard over the music.

As I said in the other thread, the referee has the whistle and should have used it.
That’s kind of what I expected. There’s no formal way for them to blow a whistle or wave a flag or do anything that would automatically stop the skate. So I’m not sure why people seem to want to blame her parents for not doing anything, we don’t know if perhaps they either were doing something or they assumed that the venue and people who run the event would do the right thinG

I think this brings up another good point. I think there should be a way for a coach to stop a skate. They know their skaters better than anyone else there besides possibly the child’s parents, and should have the authority to say somethings not right that could be seriously damaging to the skater
 

SmallFairy

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The referee according to wedgie data was mr. Slobodan Delic. I truly hope Ashley will be ok! I totally agree with everything written here and in the US pair thread. What's the point in having a referee with a whistle, if it's not used on something like this?

I used to play hockey, and at least in Norway (I don't know about international rules) they have become much stricter with head injuries. If a players gets a hit to the head and is down, the referee should blow the whistle and stop the play immediately. And in hockey there are helmets.

Now I figure skate, and one of our coaches, Christine Isaksen, is an international technical specialist. Last weekend she was at Iceland judging their nationals. One girl was so nervous she stopped and threw up in the middle of the program. She was told to withdraw. Why wasn't a hit to the head in a large international competition stopped? ISU needs to take this seriously and educate their officials.

All the best to Ashley!!!
 

Per

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In all honesty, shouldn't the coach have been obliged by rules to stop it? I know there is no such rule but there should be. Just like a team in the NHL is not allowed to put a player on ice that has not passed certain concussion tests in the locker room after a hit to the head. No result is worth brain injury, ever.
 

Rukia

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I'm not sure why people are being so harsh on her coach(es)? You have no idea what they did or didn't do. The fact that they had someone there with a neckbrace as soon as they got off tells me someone did something other than just let her skate. The focus needs to be on the referee because this specifically falls in the realm of their duties. They needed to blow their whistle and stop the skaters. The end.
 

Tinami Amori

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In all honesty, shouldn't the coach have been obliged by rules to stop it? I know there is no such rule but there should be.
I don't think so... Surely a 24-year old elite athlete knows her body and self and if she can get up, move and continue to skate, nobody should stop her.

Nobody stopped Hanyu in the last GP event and he won Gold; nobody stopped Zhang Dana and Zhang Hao, to skate with an injury and they won Olympic Silver.. and now live happily ever after.. :D

https://www.sfgate.com/sports/knapp...had-a-silver-lining-2541394.php#photo-2675975
 

Per

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Because it's time to stop fiddling around the fact that this is a dangerous sport, and someone other than the skater should have some responsibility about when to skate through injuries and not. How many concussions happens during training and what are the go-to procedures on it? Who tells the skater to go get an ACE test, and when? Is there any system in place for this at all, I wonder. Do coaches get any info from ISU. It's something going way beyond just the referee at a competition. It's not being harsh on any coach, it's about setting up more serious rules and procedures in the day-to-day training and competing to, in fact, protect skaters. Maybe there is a system and I don't know about it.
 

Aceon6

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In all honesty, shouldn't the coach have been obliged by rules to stop it? I know there is no such rule but there should be. Just like a team in the NHL is not allowed to put a player on ice that has not passed certain concussion tests in the locker room after a hit to the head. No result is worth brain injury, ever.
They didn’t have a way to do so and there’s no protocol for it. For all we know, they may have been jumping up and down, screaming, and waving team jackets. As the rules are currently written, the athlete has to approach the referee OR the referee can blow the whistle.
 

Per

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I don't think so... Surely a 24-year old elite athlete knows her body and self and if she can get up, move and continue to skate, nobody should stop her.

Nobody stopped Hanyu in the last GP event and he won Gold; nobody stopped Zhang Dana and Zhang Hao, to skate with an injury and they won Olympic Silver.. and now live happily ever after.. :D

https://www.sfgate.com/sports/knapp...had-a-silver-lining-2541394.php#photo-2675975
Nope, they don't. Athletes have a tremendous drive to continue to compete even if it is just plain wrong and dangerous. You have no idea what you are talking about comparing Hanyu's ankle injury to skating with a concussion. Ask the NHL players who can't do anything but lie 24h a day in a dark room because they did not stop playing while concussed. They don't live happily after I can tell you that.
 

Per

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They didn’t have a way to do so and there’s no protocol for it. For all we know, they may have been jumping up and down, screaming, and waving team jackets. As the rules are currently written, the athlete has to approach the referee OR the referee can blow the whistle.
Good point.
 

Karen-W

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Nope, they don't. Athletes have a tremendous drive to continue to compete even if it is just plain wrong and dangerous. You have no idea what you are talking about comparing Hanyu's ankle injury to skating with a concussion. Ask the NHL players who can't do anything but lie 24h a day in a dark room because they did not stop playing while concussed. They don't live happily after I can tell you that.
Same for the multitude of NFL players and boxers who concussed themselves, repeatedly, while playing their sport. A concussion is not like a dislocated shoulder or torn ACL where the athlete clearly CANNOT take the field of play and perform up to their normal competitive level. Symptoms for concussions often do not appear immediately. But, I'll tell you, any athlete, even a typical high school athlete, is going to want to get back to competing as soon as they can and will push themselves, sometimes too hard and before they are fully healed. That's why we have doctors and other medical professionals on site, to make the incredibly tough determinations that athletes are, often, not equipped to make, because their adrenaline and competitive instincts are running high in that moment.
 

BittyBug

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She didn't move until Tim lifts her and she was out of it.
Honestly more shocking to me was that Tim lifted her and the way he lifted her - by the back of her head / neck! #1 rule with potential spinal injury is do not move the victim. Had her injury been more serious his actions could have made it even worse. I'm sure he meant no harm but USFS and other federations need to educate skaters about appropriate response to accidents of this nature.
 

barbarafan

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Nope, they don't. Athletes have a tremendous drive to continue to compete even if it is just plain wrong and dangerous. You have no idea what you are talking about comparing Hanyu's ankle injury to skating with a concussion. Ask the NHL players who can't do anything but lie 24h a day in a dark room because they did not stop playing while concussed. They don't live happily after I can tell you that.
If you watched the video you can see her eyes are not focussed properly at all. It is possible they were both in shock. If remaining in their program there was another lift or anything spinning it could have gotten pretty ugly. The ref.should have blown the whistle and had a medic make the decision.
 

A.H.Black

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I decided to time what happened. From the time Ashley falls to the time she is back on her feet is less than 10 seconds. So much happens in those 9 seconds. We have the benefit of a camera focused on the skaters. The coaches and judges and medical personnel are at the boards. I'm not sure how much they could really see or how fast they would have been able to be aware of it. By the time it sunk in that they "knew" something should be done, she was already skating.

When I time the awful fall of Totmianina and Marinin, it is a full 9 seconds before he even gets to her and it's clear she is not going to get up. It is over 20 seconds before the coach gets to them.

I don't know if I would have realized the problem, had the thought process, and actually been able to do something in those 9 seconds. I would want to think I could - but I probably would have taken longer.
 

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