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Courtney Brinckman seriously injured (IN)

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 2:49 pm
by rainbowgirl28

Star athlete/student in serious condition after pole vaulting accident Save Email Print

Michigan City, IN
Posted: 7:24 PM May 5, 2009
Last Updated: 8:34 PM May 5, 2009
Reporter: Nick McGurk
Email Address:

At a track meet last Tuesday in Valparaiso, 18-year-old Courtney Brinckman fell on her head while pole vaulting.

The high school senior, who beat her own school record on the pole vault just before the accident happened, is now at Illinois Medical Center in Chicago after brain swelling. Family say the most dangerous days are probably behind her, and that she will likely live.

In the classroom, Brinckman is a stand-out: a 4.0 student and class valedictorian who took challenging classes throughout her four years of high school.

"If there were ever the golden student, Courtney's the one," said Linda Meyer, a guidance counselor at Michigan City High School.

On the track, she's a record-setter. Just outside the gates of Michigan City High School's track, a sign boasts school records.

Courtney Brinckman's name is there among many others. Brinckman, once a star gymnast, transitioned to track and field after starting high school.

Like just about everything she tried, friends and family say, she succeeded.

"You tell her to do something and she does it 10 times better than you would ever expect," said Meghan Quinlan, one of her best friends. "Or than you could have done it yourself," added Katrina Edling, another best friend.

Last Tuesday, after beating her own record, she went for a practice attempt. That's when she slipped, fell backwards and hit her head.

"Everyone was just thinking about her more than anything else," said Mark Malz, one of Courtney's teachers.

For the past week, students and faculty have been coping without Courtney in class.

"It's May, and she was so close to reaping all the benefits of her hard work that it was just really devastating for all of us," said Meyer.

"Courtney's got some rare talents and we only hope that she'll just recover perfectly," said Meyer.

Brinckman earned a full-tuition scholarship to Indiana University in Bloomington. Her father says she plans to study pre-med.

As of Tuesday, family say she is being kept heavily sedated, almost in a coma, to keep her brain from getting too stimulated.

She could be in the hospital for another two months, say family.

Re: Courtney Brinckman in serious condition (IN)

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 2:49 pm
by rainbowgirl28
From the comments to that article:
Posted by: Andrew Location: Michigan City on May 6, 2009 at 12:00 AM
she is actually my cousin and is doing a lot better than the story makes it seem, but thank you all for the thoughts and prayers, the last week has been hell for courtney's family and mine.

Re: Courtney Brinckman in serious condition (IN)

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 2:50 pm
by rainbowgirl28
Here's an article I posted about her just a short time ago: viewtopic.php?f=22&p=125780

Re: Courtney Brinckman in serious condition (IN)

Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 2:52 pm
by rainbowgirl28 ... leID=22916

MCHS athlete critical after suffering injury

Nick Dettmann
The News-Dispatch

MICHIGAN CITY - A star track & field athlete at Michigan City High School is in a Chicago-area hospital in critical condition after a head injury she suffered Tuesday, according to a family friend.

Multiple sources have said Courtney Brinckman is at the University of Chicago Medical Center because of swelling in her brain after slipping off her pole and her head hit the ground at City's track & field meet at Valparaiso.

Clara Vinzant, a friend of the family, said Brinckman has a skull fracture. As of late Thursday, Brinckman is unconscious from a drug-induced coma.

"She is a young girl about to start her adult life and a tragedy has hit her and her family," Vinzant said. "She is a beautiful, talented young lady that has always supported her church, school and community. She could use those resources now in prayer and thoughts."

Vinzant said Friday some of the swelling has gone down.

Brinckman, a senior pole vaulter for the Wolves, was injured moments after breaking the school record she shared with Shayna Smith. Brinckman cleared 10 feet to break the previous 9-foot-6 record.

Vinzant said it was during her next attempt when the accident occurred.

City track & field coach Tim Bumber confirmed an injury did occur, but in respect for the family said he couldn't comment further on the situation or the details of the incident.

Attempts to reach Brinckman's parents at home were unsuccessful.

City athletic director Bob "Bear" Falls said he couldn't comment because, "I would hate to speculate. ... We just don't know much right now."

Vinzant said Brinckman first was taken to Porter hospital in Valparaiso. She was there for 18 hours before being transported to Chicago.

Brinckman, a former gymnast, was just featured in an April 22 News-Dispatch article profiling her rise in pole vaulting. She aspires to study pre-med at Indiana University this fall.

Brinckman also competes in the hurdles events for City's track team. As a freshman, she qualified for the state gymnastics finals.

"As a coach and as a mother, I feel very badly for her family," said Gillian Kieft, Brinckman's former gymnastics coach.

Vinzant said, "Courtney gave many loving hugs, and coaching advice to my level 7 daughter, and a lot of the girls look up to her at Platinum Gymnastics."

Re: Courtney Brinckman seriously injured (IN)

Posted: Fri May 08, 2009 12:56 am
by rainbowgirl28 ... 020/Sports

Hopeful signs

Things are looking up a little bit for Courtney Brinckman, the Michigan City pole vaulter who suffered a severe head injury in a freak accident while competing last week at Valparaiso.

She is still unable to speak, but sources report she opened her eyes and even smiled for her family Wednesday at the Chicago hospital where she is recovering.

Brinckman, a senior and the valedictorian of her class, lost her grip on the pole while making an attempt and fell backwards, hitting her head on the asphalt runway.

Re: Courtney Brinckman seriously injured (IN)

Posted: Sat May 16, 2009 10:57 am
by rainbowgirl28 ... M=39635.31
Hope emerges for injured athlete's full recovery

Nick Dettmann
The News-Dispatch

MICHIGAN CITY - Phil Brinckman is a tall, well-built man with a firm handshake.

But even the owner of Brinckman's Auto Salvage, 2806 E. Michigan Blvd., can be reduced to tears and fear.

Fear of the worst.

On April 28, his 18-year-old daughter Courtney was seriously injured in a pole-vaulting accident in Valparaiso. Phil, his wife, Dottie, and Courtney's doctors weren't sure she was going to live.

"The brain swelling was out of control," Phil Brinckman told The News-Dispatch.

On Wednesday, one the biggest signs pointing to a full recovery emerged.

Brinckman was moved out of intensive care. She is awake and alert, eating food for the first time in two weeks, talking and beginning her physical therapy.

She already has begun walking around her hospital room with assistance.

"It's a huge relief," Phil Brinckman said. "Words can't even describe it. It's like a miracle."

Moments before the accident, Courtney set the school record after clearing 10 feet, besting the previous 9-foot-6 mark she shared with Shayna Smith.

After setting the mark, Brinckman wanted to do a practice run. She ran down the approach lane, hit her mark, went up into the air where she lost her grip, fell backwards and hit her head on the pavement.

Brinckman was rushed to Porter hospital in Valparaiso, where she was held overnight to be stabilized since her brain swelled.

Doctors had to stabilize her intracranial pressure, or ICP, or she was going to die. The pressure on Brinckman's brain was nearly double what's considered high.

Once stabilized, she was airlifted to the University of Illinois-Chicago Medical Center.

Brinckman underwent a decompressive craniectomy - a neurosurgical procedure in which part of the skull is removed to allow a swelling brain room to expand without being squeezed. For much of the first week after the accident, Brinckman was in a medically-induced coma to control the swelling.

For four days, the Brinckmans, including Courtney's younger brothers Matt, 17, and Ryan, 13, had to wait for word if Courtney was going to survive.

"Tough enough to make me cry," said Phil Brinckman about the difficulty of those first few days. "The whole family; we were in tears. ... Aunts and uncles and grandparents, everybody was crying."

By Sunday, May 3, the Brinckmans knew their 18-year-old 4.0 star was going to live.

"The neurosurgeons are very hard to read what they're thinking," Brinckman said. "They didn't give us any positive outlook in the beginning, and it scared us."

Brinckman and his wife were not at Courtney's meet when the accident happened. They were heading out to their son Matt's baseball game against Merrillville at the U.S. Steel Yard, which was to begin at 7 p.m. Just as they were heading to the game, Matt called to say the game had been canceled.

So Phil and his wife were sitting at home, talking about what to do when they got the phone call informing them of what happened.

The Brinckmans couldn't believe it.

"We never thought of something like this happening," Brinckman said.

Courtney, who is set to go to Indiana University-Bloomington in the fall on an academic scholarship, still has about a 4- by 5-inch, egg-shaped circle visible on her head where a portion of her skull was removed. It'll be about another month before they put the skull piece back. She is likely to remain in the hospital until at least the end of June.

"She's a very attractive bald-headed girl right now," Brinckman said with a laugh. "Still very witty. We're very happy."

Brinckman said he has been blessed with the support he and his family have received.

"The whole town has been offering to help one way or the other, it's amazing," he said. "... The prayers have helped."

While they waited at Courtney's bedside, numerous people helped take care of Brinckman's business and his two sons, even tending to their lawn. Brinckman couldn't be more thankful for their support.

Brinckman wanted to thank his brother and sister-in-law (Susan and Jeff Peckat), grandmother Cecilia Brinckman, his colleagues at Brinckman's, John Novak, who helped run the shop while he was with his daughter, and Robert Wendt and Steve Schultz, who mowed the lawn.

"Thanks for all the cookies and dinner from all the women that helped out," he added.

The tears from two weeks ago are now tears of happiness.


Re: Courtney Brinckman seriously injured (IN)

Posted: Sat May 16, 2009 11:00 am
by rainbowgirl28
I was going to update this even before I saw the latest article... I was told that her injury occurred when she was taking extra practice jumps after the completion of the meet. She didn't get her pole tip down enough and it missed the box.

Re: Courtney Brinckman seriously injured (IN)

Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 3:26 pm
by rainbowgirl28 ... 20.article

Michigan City's Brinckman making 'miracle' recovery from injury

* Senior underwent risky surgery after suffering head injury in freak accident.

May 20, 2009
By David Robb, Post-Tribune staff writer
What happened to Michigan City senior Courtney Brinckman on April 28, her track coach, Tim Bumber, called "the scariest thing I've ever seen as a coach or a fan of athletics."

What has happened since -- from those first few frightening days of wondering whether his daughter would survive a freak pole-vaulting accident, to seeing her make an improbable and inspirational recovery -- Phil Brinckman is calling "a miracle."

The surgery that saved Courtney's life

Swelling in Courtney Brinckman's brain in the aftermath of her pole-vaulting accident required a decompressive craniectomy. That risky neurosurgical procedure removes part of the skull in order to relieve the pressure that can block blood flow or warp the brain stem, both of which can cause death. Doctors typically wait six to 20 weeks for the swelling to subside before reattaching the skull piece. In the meantime, the skull bit needs to be preserved in a way that will protect its bone marrow. Some doctors prefer to freeze the skull bit. Brinckman's doctors elected to implant it in her abdomen, assuring it will be kept sterile, within a subcutaneous pouch.

That's the turbulent swing of emotions the Brinckman family -- Phil, his wife, Dottie, and sons, Matt and Ryan -- have experienced since the moment they got that fateful phone call. It came from Wolves assistant track coach Cheryl Bohlim.

"'She's got a pulse, and she's breathing,'" Phil remembered Bohlim saying. "I said, 'Is that all you can tell us?' She said, 'It doesn't look good.'"

Courtney could have called it quits after breaking the school record in the pole vault that day, clearing 10 feet in a meet at Valparaiso High School. But the standout student with a 4.0 grade-point average and an academic scholarship to Indiana University wanted to take a practice run.

As she vaulted into the air, she lost her grip on the bar.

"She did a flip backwards and landed on the back of her head," Phil said.

Courtney, who was not wearing a helmet, was rushed to Porter hospital in Valparaiso, where she stayed overnight before being transferred to the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago.

The first five days, doctors moderated Courtney's brain swelling with medication. When they tried to wean her off the medication, her intracranial pressure skyrocketed to a potentially deadly level.

"If the (intracranial pressure) goes over 20, that's the danger zone," Phil said. "It shot up to 48. Those were the days when we weren't sure whether she was going to survive."

That's when doctors decided, on May 4, to administer a decompressive craniectomy, a risky neurosurgical procedure in which part of the skull is removed to allow the brain room to swell.

"A day or two after that she started squinting, barely opening her eyes, and things have been progressing since then," Phil said.

Squinting, which was followed soon after by twitching toes and fingers, was the first voluntary movement Courtney made after the accident.

"Doctors said you could consider it a coma by the textbook description, but really she wasn't in coma," Phil said. "We could get her to respond by reflex."

While unconscious those first few days, Courtney could hear what was going on around her.

"When she woke up, she already knew she had had surgery and that her skull was in her abdomen," Phil said.

The skull bit removed during the surgery is still implanted, within a subcutaneous pouch, in Courtney's abdomen (it will be a few weeks before it is reattached). She's still in the hospital, with plenty of rehabilitation still ahead of her. And Phil still doesn't know whether his daughter will make a complete physical recovery.

But she is talking, eating, walking with assistance and showing no signs of brain damage. And her prognosis is exponentially better than it was 2 ½ weeks ago.

"She's pretty witty. When her friends come visit her she can keep them all laughing," said Phil, who alternates hospital shifts with his wife so that one of them is by Courtney's bed at all hours.

"She remembers everything. If she loses anything it's going to be a little coordination. As hard as that is to deal with, being an athlete her whole life, we'd rather have her mind and her personality sharp."

Courtney was removed from intensive care last Friday. Currently, she is at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where she is seeing occupational, speech and physical therapists.

"They were all surprised to see how good she's doing," Phil said. "She's come a long way. It's really been a miracle."

Re: Courtney Brinckman seriously injured (IN)

Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 3:35 pm
by rainbowgirl28 ... ts_in.html
Michigan City gets helmets in wake of Brinckman's injury
By David Robb on May 19, 2009 4:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Michigan City pole vaulter Courtney Brinckman wasn't wearing a helmet when she suffered a serious head injury in a meet at Valparaiso High School on April 28.

There's no IHSAA rule requiring pole vaulters to wear helmets. Some schools have them, others don't. Michigan City didn't before Brinckman's injury. The school does now.

"Our athletic department made the purchase," coach Tim Bumber said, "and we now have helmets for all our vaulters."

For more on Brinckman's remarkable recovering from her life-threatening injury, check out Wednesday's edition of The Post-Tribune.

That's interesting. I am no expert, but it sounds like she sustained the type of injury where a helmet would have increased her risk of neck injury.

Re: Courtney Brinckman seriously injured (IN)

Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 3:36 pm
by rainbowgirl28 ... 22.article

Brinckmans touched by love, support

May 22, 2009
By David Robb Post-Tribune staff writer

Phil Brinckman doesn't consider himself a particularly religious man. But he can't help but think that those praying for his daughter, Michigan City senior Courtney Brinckman, over the past three weeks had something to do with her remarkable recovery from a life-threatening pole-vaulting accident.

"We had a miracle, there's no doubt about it," Phil said. "All the churches and priests (in Michigan City) have gotten online with priests across the country to pray for Courtney. And I really believe that prayer has helped save my daughter's life. I'm not much of a churchgoer, but I've got to believe it has helped."

On April 28, Courtney suffered a serious head injury during a track meet at Valparaiso High School. While attempting a vault, she lost her grip on the bar and fell backward, hitting her head on the pavement.

At first, doctors weren't sure she would live. She was unconscious, and her brain swelling wouldn't subside. After five days, neurosurgeons elected to perform a decompressive craniectomy, removing part of her skull in order to relieve the pressure that can block blood flow or warp the brain stem.

The surgery was an incredible success. Not only did it save Courtney's life, she has made marked strides in the past two weeks. She was removed from intensive care last Friday, and is eating, talking and walking with assistance at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

"When something like this happens, I guess the good side is you find out how many friends you have and how nice people really are and how supportive a town can be," Phil said.

"It's been overwhelming."

And so, when Phil had finished updating me on Courtney's improbable recovery earlier this week, he had just one request.

"I wish that you'd put a big thank you in there for all the people that have helped us," he said.

That list is rather exhaustive.

With he and his wife, Dottie, alternating hospital shifts to be by their daughter's bed constantly, Phil has had to take time off work. So one of Phil's best friends took time off from his job to help run Brinckman's Auto Salvage.

Neighbors have been mowing the Brinckman's grass. Friends of the family have been cooking dinner for Courtney's two brothers, Matt and Ryan.

Courtney has received more than 200 cards. The mayor sent her flowers. Penn High School sent her flowers. Merrillville's track team sent her an autographed poster.

Saturday was Michigan City's prom. So Courtney's prom date came to the hospital, clad in his tuxedo, to visit her.

Courtney, of course, has had plenty of other visitors, including her track teammates and coaches. Not to mention the countless phone calls and text messages.

"Her phone has been going crazy," Phil said.

The phone at Brinckman's Auto Salvage has been ringing off the hook, too, as it always does.

"Every time someone calls asking for a part, the first part of the conversation is, 'How is Courtney doing?' That's 50, 60 calls a day of explaining how my daughter's doing," he said. "I'm glad everyone's concerned, but it's hard to deal with. Now that she's doing better, there's no more crying."

But there's still plenty of community support.

Re: Courtney Brinckman seriously injured (IN)

Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 3:39 pm
by rainbowgirl28 ... leID=23612

5/30/2009 11:00:00 AM
No Place Like Home
One month after accident, City track star leaves hospital

Nick Dettmann
The News-Dispatch

MICHIGAN CITY - Shopping and dresses - two things Michigan City High School senior Courtney Brinckman loves.

With graduation rapidly approaching, the 18-year-old got to shop Wednesday for that much-needed dress. The track-and-field star was just a stone's throw away from Chicago's Water Tower Place at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where she was staying after suffering a serious head injury April 28 in a pole-vaulting accident.

Accompanied by her mother, Dottie, the two found a knee-length, blue-and-white gown with thin straps.

They got it.

"I got a graduation dress," Courtney said.

She was tired and weak, but she had her dress.

While digging through her closet at home Friday for another dress she's considering for either Monday's senior distinction banquet or the June 7 graduation ceremony, she came to another realization: She needs to clean her closet.

Ah, the beauty of being home again.

Brinckman returned home Friday after a month-long stay in Chicago hospitals, recovering from her nearly fatal head and brain injury.

"I'm happy to be here right now," she told The News-Dispatch on Friday. "... I'm just happy I'm walking; I'm talking; I'm breathing. My heart is beating in my chest.

"... I just can't wait to graduate."

On her way home after leaving RIC at about 10:30 a.m. Friday, Courtney and her mom stopped by MCHS to say hello. The word quickly got out she was there.

Guidance counselors, teachers, friends and teammates assembled in the hallway. Suddenly, it was an informal welcome home party.

Many were relieved to see her home, safe and sound.

"That's the most exciting thing that's happened at this school this year ... Courtney coming to school," City girls track & field coach Tim Bumber said.

Figuring out which dress she's going to wear is not Courtney's only problem now that she's home.

"I need to get new shoes," she said.

What dress or shoes to wear on graduation day was an afterthought four weeks ago. Being alive was more important.

In the first days - hours - after her accident, there was uncertainty between Courtney's parents and her doctors whether she was going to live. Dottie also was worried about whether or not Courtney would still be the same happy-go-lucky, upbeat person.

"It was just pure hell," Dottie recalled. "You wonder, 'What's she going to be like? Is she going to be a vegetable? Is there going to be any brain damage?' You just don't know. You just wonder."

Courtney has about a 4- by 5-inch mark on the right side of her head where a portion of her skull has been removed. That piece is implanted in her abdomen until the neurosurgeons believe it is time to replace the piece.

Brinckman is scheduled to meet with surgeons next week to discuss the plan.

"It looks like I'm pregnant with an alien baby," she joked. "But I'm not. It's just my skull in there; keeping it warm and sterile."

For now, she wears a hockey helmet anytime she's up and moving around.

The hockey helmet, which is signed by family and friends wishing her the best, has become part of her graduation ensemble. Figuring out how to put the graduation cap over the helmet will be fun, she says.

But it's a welcome problem after even being able to attend graduation seemed unlikely.

"She has such a will, a lust for life," Bumber said. "What a great thing. It's a day we've all been thinking about, and now it's a reality. It's real special.

"... Her dad put it best when he called it a miracle."

Hopefully only for now, Brinckman doesn't have a sense of taste or smell. But she is hopeful once her skull piece is put back into place, everything will return to normal.

Friday wasn't the first time she was officially home.

On Sunday, she was granted a day pass, but had to be back at the hospital by 8 that night.

"That was very nice," Brinckman said. "All my friends came over, too. And I got to eat real good food. Something that was edible."

She also took a nap in her own bed. She hated her bed at RIC. It was an air mattress that monitored various variables, including her weight. It was always moving, and it annoyed her.

Brinckman doesn't remember anything about the accident.

Her last memory is looking for one of her best friends - MaryKate Mellen - to tell her she just broke the school's pole vault record, a record she shared with Shayna Smith at 9 feet 6 inches. Brinckman cleared 10 feet.

"I wanted to tell MaryKate right away, but she was busy winning the (1,600-meter run)," Brinckman said. "So I told her afterwards and she was all excited."

Dottie, who works alongside her husband Phil at Brinckman's Auto Salvage, 2806 E. Michigan Blvd., kept a diary of every bit of good news.

Wiggling of toes.

A smile.

If Courtney did it, her mom wrote it down.

On Thursday night for the first time, Courtney got to read those notes and couldn't believe her mom was doing that.

She laughed.

On Friday as she pulled up to home again, Courtney was greeted with a poster on the garage door reading, "Welcome Home Courtney" in bright green, orange, blue and purple letters.

A few hours later, in the comforts of her small, but cozy room, an ice cream Oreo cake from her aunt arrived, bringing a smile to her face.

Brinckman's improvement has been a rapid one, Dottie said.

"I guess because she was so young, so strong and healthy," she added. ".. I was just truly amazed at how emotionally stable she was throughout the whole thing. She never said, 'Why me?'"

The rallying support has been enormous: flowers and get-well cards from family, friends, Michigan City High School, Mayor Chuck Oberlie and numerous schools throughout the region.

Dottie had no idea, she says, her daughter meant so much to so many people.

"It was really nice," she added. "It was unbelievable the outpouring of support."

Courtney said, "It's unbelievable the community support I've been getting. I was glad everybody was praying for me because it worked."

Mellen, along with her best friends Katrina Edling, Elizabeth Miltenberger and Meghan Quinlan, were constant visitors for Courtney. Mellen said they were alongside her whenever they could be there. They were there at Porter hospital, which is where Courtney was taken moments after the accident before being airlifted to Chicago.

In those first few days, Mellen called it one of the worst weeks of their lives.

But it was the core of friends and their positive outlook that everything was going to be OK, which helped the Brinckmans get by.

And they were there to give her the juicy details about the biggest dress night of them all for a high school girl: prom.

Michigan City's prom was May 16. By mid-week, the family still hadn't told Courtney she was going to have to miss her prom.

But not to worry. Her prom date, Austin Morse, saved the day. Almost like he was a knight in shining armor.

Morse told Dottie he still wanted her to be his date, and wanted to bring the prom to her.

So, he came dressed up in his tuxedo with vest matching the color of Courtney's dress - coral. The dress also had sequins and beads strung around the neckline, with the length going down to her ankles.

"I was home anyways, so I took her prom dress, got her dressed up, put the makeup on and we took some pictures," Dottie said. "It was cute."

Courtney was thrilled.

"She got her dress on and I wheeled her around the unit and everybody was oohing and aahing," Dottie said.

For one night, Courtney was a VIP.

"That was fun. I'm glad it happened," she said.

Her friends fed her updates with pictures from the prom through text messages.

The next morning, the clan, instead of going to Six Flags, visited Courtney in the hospital to give her the scoop on the big night.

"They told me all the ugly dresses," Courtney said.

With whatever dress she decides to wear for graduation, tears will flow at MCHS on June 7.

Courtney's father Phil said, "We'll probably be crying our eyes out," Phil said. "We didn't expect to make it there. My whole family will be crying for happiness."

Re: Courtney Brinckman seriously injured (IN)

Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 3:46 pm
by rainbowgirl28 ... leID=23647

6/1/2009 11:00:00 AM Email this article • Print this article
Safety First
Money On Mondays

Nick Dettmann
The News-Dispatch

Thankfully, Michigan City's Courtney Brinckman is home, safe and sound after the near-fatal head and brain injury she suffered in a track & field meet in Valparaiso on April 28.

While Brinckman, in her interview with The News-Dispatch on Friday, said she doesn't recall the events of her accident, various accounts have said Brinckman went up for her vault, slipped off the pole and landed on her head.

On that day, it was misty, and Brinckman admitted she probably shouldn't have done it.

Since her injury, Michigan City High School has bought safety helmets for its pole vaulters.

Now the question: Should they be mandatory?

In Indiana, the wearing of helmets by pole vaulters is not a requirement. Only three states in the United States require them: Wisconsin, Maine and Minnesota.

According to a study done in 2006 by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research based at the University of North Carolina, there have been 18 deaths linked to pole vaulting between 1983 and 2006. Sadly, that included one coach who was demonstrating a technique in 1998; he bounced out of the pit, landed on the concrete and subsequently died.

Also according to the study, many of the fatal injuries are caused by improper facilities. National Federation standards require a landing area of at least 20 feet, 2 inches by 19 feet, 8 inches. The landing area, the study says, is where most of the injuries have occurred.

But in Brinckman's case, it is believed she was injured while going up for her vault, landing on the concrete of the approach lane and not from her landing.

There have also been 11 injuries which have led to permanent disability.

Brinckman is not the only injury in the United States to occur this year.

In Walla Walla, Wash., 18-year-old DeSales High School senior Ryan Moberg died of head injuries suffered in a pole-vaulting accident March 30.

In 2002 alone, three student-athletes died of head injuries suffered in pole-vaulting accidents. There were none between 2002 and Moberg's accident.

Some veterans of the sport believe the helmet is a distraction for the student-athletes, and could hinder the results.

"When a kid dies, it puts something in the back of your mind," Cameron Fancher, a fellow pole vaulter in the Moberg's area, told the Tri-City Herald in Tri-Cities, Wash. "But it's not something you try to think about. Bad things happen in every sport, freak accidents. People get hurt in football, but you keep playing."

In softball, pitchers and even infielders have begun to wear facemasks to prevent facial injuries. Softball helmets also have facemasks.

The main objections for pole vaulting, according to the study at the University of North Carolina, are the potential liability the sport carries, and the lack of qualified coaches to teach it. Thirty states, in a survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations, said they would support mandatory helmet regulations in pole vaulting.

The sport boasts an estimated 25,000 participants nationally, but veterans of the sport believe it is a sport which should be allowed to continue.

"Yes, kids are going into the air, and things can get risky," said Dave Hurst, a vault coach at Southridge High School in Washington, in the April 3 edition of the Tri-Cities Herald.

"But I've had thousands of practices and meets without kids getting injured," Hurst added. "When people say pole vaulting is dangerous and they should ban it, they're ignorant."

There is still a use for the sport, but mandating helmets is a MUST. Maybe next time someone like Brinckman may not be so lucky. If we can help reduce the numbers of injuries and even deaths, why not do it?