Former Olympic Swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen Severs Spine in ATV Accident

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IJune 9, 2014

American Amy van Dyken reacts after finishing her heat in the women's 100 meter butterfly at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Tuesday, July 23, 1996. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
DOUG MILLS/Associated Press

Former Olympic swimming champion Amy Van Dyken-Rouen is recovering following surgery to stabilize her spine after it was severed during an all-terrain vehicle accident in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Friday, according to Jeff Metcalfe of azcentral.com.

The 41-year-old six-time Olympic gold medalist told emergency personnel she had no feeling in her legs or toes, per The Associated Press, which reported that she severed her spine (via ESPN.com). Fortunately, she is said to be in good condition despite the seriousness of her injury and the circumstances of the accident.

According to a letter from the Van Dyken-Rouen families, she severed her spine at the T11 vertebrae, which came just a few millimeters from potentially rupturing her aorta.

The injury occurred when Van Dyken-Rouen struck a curb while riding the ATV in a parking lot outside of a restaurant. The impact sent her over a five- to seven-foot drop-off, according to a police report, and she was not wearing a helmet at the time.

Van Dyken-Rouen, who was found unresponsive, had to be airlifted to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center.

Her husband, Tom Rouen, a former punter for the Denver Broncos, described the hectic scene, per The Denver Post's Kieran Nicholson: "She wasn't breathing. I raised up the back of her neck with my hand, she started gasping for air."

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According to Nicholson, Van Dyken-Rouen is expected to remain in the intensive care unit for the next several days.

A native of Denver, Van Dyken-Rouen first burst onto the scene at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, becoming the first U.S. female athlete to win four gold medals at a single Olympics. She would add two more gold medals at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.

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