Air bag helps protect Olympic ski racer from major injury

During a horrific crash in a World Cup race on Saturday, Olympic downhill skiing champion Matthias Mayer was likely saved from more serious injury by an inflatable air bag he was wearing, marking the first time the new safety technology has been used in a World Cup race.

While tearing down the mountain in the Italian Dolomites, 25-year-old Mayer got airborne and hurtled backward down the course. In the short period of time while he was in the air, an air-bag vest underneath his race suit inflated, softening his impact.

Ultimately, while Mayer suffered two broken vertebrae and will be out for the remainder of the season, many are viewing the fact that his injuries weren’t life-threatening as validation that air bags should be a necessary safety measure in the sport.

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“It proved the air bag has an important place in speed skiing,” Austrian winter-sports federation director Hans Pum told the Associated Press.

Mayer seemed to echo that sentiment in a press release, saying it “could have been much worse.”

While some marveled at the effectiveness of the air bag, others, including U.S. skiing champion Ted Ligety, reached out to Mayer to wish him a speedy recovery from the crash.

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