Melanie Coleman, a decorated gymnast and junior nursing student attending Southern Connecticut State University, died on Sunday after sustaining a devastating accident during gymnastics practice on Friday.
According to the The Connecticut Post, which first reported on the news, and NBC News, Coleman, 20, suffered a spinal injury while training on the uneven bars at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden, Connecticut, where she had trained for 10 years.
One of Coleman’s longtime coaches, Tom Alberti, described the incident as “totally unexpected in its occurrence and its outcome.” A GoFundMe account set up for Coleman’s family echoed that sentiment, calling the incident a “tragic freak accident” that initially left Coleman in critical care. The GoFundMe page raised over $56,000 in just two days.
Mary Fredericks, head coach of Southern Connecticut State University gymnastics, revealed in a statement that the team was "heartbroken and stunned. "She was an incredibly hard worker and a sweet-spirited young woman," she said. "Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to her family at this time."
The Connecticut Post also reported that Coleman’s organs are being donated to keep others alive. “We are confident that her spirit, laughter, and humor will live on through the ones who loved her most, as well as through the gift of life to those who needed it most through organ donation,” the Coleman family wrote in a statement published by WTNH-TV
Gymnastics is, unfortunately, not a sport that comes without risks—it was named the most dangerous women’s sport, according to a 2008 study published in the journal Pediatrics.
For the study, researchers from The Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital examined gymnasts between the ages of 6 to 17, finding that nearly 27,000 gymnasts were hospitalized annually. Overall, the annual injury rate for gymnastics was 4.8 for every 1,000 participants.
"We don't typically think of gymnastics as a dangerous sport. In fact, many parents consider it an activity, but it has the same clinical incidence of catastrophic injuries as ice hockey," Nationwide Children's Hospital Lara McKenzie said in a video release at the time the study was published.
In addition to setting up the GoFundMe account, the page’s organizers also set up a meal train for the family, to provide them with dinners and other meals during this difficult time.
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