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Skateboarder who plunged 45 feet eager to return

Jake Brown describes his split-second preparation  for a breathtaking wipeout on a steep ramp during competition in California.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

Jake Brown, the X-Games skateboarder who crash-landed after plunging 45 feet, is battered but undaunted. And, the high-flying athlete told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer on Monday, he’s going to return to competition just as soon as he can.

“We have a tour stop in Portland in three weeks,” he told Lauer. “Hopefully, I’ll be ready for that.”

Brown crashed — “slammed,” in skateboard lingo — on Thursday. On Sunday, he was back at the X-Games, pressing the flesh, showing off his new cane and signing autographs for delighted fans.

Lauer expressed astonishment that medical personnel at the games would let him get up and walk away from what was the equivalent of a fall off a four-story building.

“I don’t think I gave them much of a choice,” Brown told Lauer.

Brown said he was knocked out on landing, came to about a minute later, and finally got up after 10 minutes and walked painfully away. He wanted to show everyone he was okay, and he figured getting back on his feet was the best way to do it.

“You should be dead,” Lauer said, mincing no words.

“I guess so,” Brown replied matter-of-factly. “But I’m alive, so here I am.”

When an athlete in one of the major professional sports goes down with an injury, he or she is not allowed to get up until team doctors and trainers feel sure it’s safe to move them. If there’s any question of possible neck or spinal injury, the player is immobilized on a backboard and carted off the field and to a hospital. The athlete doesn’t have a choice in the matter.

‘Still ticking’But Brown was allowed to walk away despite injuries that included severe whiplash, bruised liver and lungs, a broken wrist and a minor fracture of one vertebra.

“I definitely think they shouldn’t have let him get up and walk away,” Brown’s friend and fellow skateboarder Pierre-Luc Gagnon told TODAY in a taped interview.

The 32-year-old Brown was leading the Big Air competition last Thursday going into his fifth and final run. Taking off down an 80-foot ramp, he hit his first move, a 720 — two complete revolutions — across a gap and onto a second ramp. He was feeling pretty good at first, because it was the first time he’d ever done a 720. But he landed off line on a second down-ramp, tried to correct, and by the time he reached the top of the second up-ramp, he knew he was in trouble.

The video shows him parting company with his skateboard, bicycling his legs and turning in air to land on his heels near the bottom of the down-slope. His shoes flew off as he crashed in sequence on his feet, tailbone and back.

Brown watched the replay for maybe the twentieth time. “Each time it sinks in a little harder,” he told Lauer, who asked whether his mid-air maneuvers were intentional.

“Yeah, that was conscious,” Brown replied. “I was looking at the ground — I didn’t want to smash my face up. I turned around to disperse the energy of the slam.”

It didn’t hurt at first, he said. “I was sleeping. Lights out.”

His friends finally convinced him it would be a good idea to go to the hospital and see what was broken.

“I have insurance,” he said. “But I felt I didn’t really have to go to the hospital because I could walk. But I had a lot of pain.”

Brown was born and raised in Australia but now lives in the States. His parents saw the crash on television in Australia and reached for the telephone.

“They called me to find out if I was alive,” he said, adding that they didn’t ask him to give up his sport. “They just made sure that I was still ticking.”