Olympian Amy Van Dyken Severs Spine in ATV Accident

Amy Van DykenSix-time Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken Rouen reportedly severed her spine in an ATV accident last Friday and at the scene told emergency workers that she had no feeling in her legs. The 41-year-old swimmer was airlifted to the hospital to stabilize her spine, but her current physical condition is unknown.

Van Dyken rose to fame in the 1996 Atlanta summer games, when she became the first U.S. woman to win four golds at one Olympics -- for the 50-meter freestyle and 100 butterfly, as well as participating in two winning relays. She won two more relay medals in Sydney in 2000.


The accident took place in Show Low, Arizona, and it was confirmed Sunday that she's being treated at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center in the ICU. Her husband, former Denver Broncos punter Tom Rouen, says she is currently "in good spirits." He said that after the surgery to her spine, "She needed about three days before she is out of the woods. She is strong and has a great attitude."

A letter from both the Van Dyken and Rouen families disclosed that she had severed her spinal cord at the T11 vertebrae and had come within millimeters of severing her aorta.

911 responders reported that she was conscious at the scene but having trouble breathing. A witness who watched Van Dyken drive the ATV through the parking lot and "launch over" a curb and down an embankment said she was unconscious when he ran to her. She was not wearing a helmet.

Rouen told police he had recently switched the throttle on the vehicle from a thumb accelerator to a twist accelerator, but they don't know if that was a factor in the accident. There was no evidence of alcohol being involved either, and no charges were filed.

If the Olympian has regained or will regain use of her limbs or even feeling is unknown. Or at least it's not being reported on. I'm guessing that it's probably still too soon to tell, but here's to hoping that she's able to make a full recovery.

Have you ever known anyone to recover from a spinal cord injury?


Image via Amy Van Dyken/Instagram

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