January 31, 2013 Update: X Games snowmobiler Caleb Moore died in the hospital today. His family released this statement: "This morning Caleb Moore passed away. He will be truly missed and never forgotten."
As X-Games snowmobiler Caleb Moore clings to life in the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery after a crash in last week's X Games, some wonder: Has the competition become too extreme?
There have been no deaths yet in the Winter X Games, which debuted 17 years ago. Last year, X Games skiing sensation Sarah Burke died at the age of 29 after a crash in training.
"Caleb is in critical condition and is being closely monitored," family spokeswoman Chelsea Lawson told the Denver Post. "The Moores want to express their gratitude to all of Caleb’s fans, friends and family for their strong support and ask for continued prayers in the coming days."
Moore, 25, was competing in the snowmobile freestyle event in Aspen on Thursday when he miscalculated a back flip and his 450-pound snowmobile crashed on top of him. After a concussion was diagnosed, he was flown to Aspen Valley Hospital, where doctors discovered bleeding around his heart. He was airlifted to Grand Junction for emergency heart surgery, and remained there with brain complications. One of his most recent Facebook posts read: "Hey everyone, make sure and watch on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday! I'll be going for it all! Thanks for the support!"
Moore's brother also made a trip to the emergency room following a crash last week; the X Games wrapped up on Sunday with several more injuries, including a spinal fracture (skier Rose Battersby) and at least one concussion (snowboarder Halldor Helgason).
Still, most say that extreme athletes willingly accept the risk -- even the ultimate risk of death. There is no rush to blame any certain entity for creating a competition or for sponsoring athletes, although some call into question the celebrity culture that envelops sports.
"I feel like the athletes understand the risk and are willing to take it to exceed and excel in their sport," said snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2009 and returned to the sport.