You would never know that something horrible happened at the foam pit at TwitchCon this past weekend if you simply followed Twitch’s official pages. The streaming platform has spent recent days highlighting good times at its signature conference on its social media channels, refusing to answer questions related to the foam pit or offer comment on the condition of Adriana Chechik, the streamer and adult performer who broke her back in two places and had a five-hour surgery this week to treat it.
While not commenting on Chechik’s injuries publicly is somewhat understandable—lawyers that spoke to Gizmodo about the case said it wasn’t surprising—what seems striking and heartless is that the streaming platform has not even reached out to Chechik privately. On Wednesday, the streamer revealed that no one from Twitch, the convention center where TwitchCon was hosted, or Lenovo, the company that sponsored the booth with the foam pit, had gotten in touch with her—not even to simply wish her a quick recovery.
“I find it odd that no one from any of the convention center the booth or twitch has even had well wishes or said anything,” Chechik tweeted after she got out of a five-and-a-half hour surgey. “I get not talking about it publicly incident wise but saying no nice words to me so far is kinda fucked up.”
On Sunday, LochVaness, another streamer who was injured in the TwitchCon foam pit, also said had heard “absolutely nothing” from either Twitch or Lenovo about the incident. LochVaness dislocated her knee and sprained her ankle while jumping lightly to get off the podium.
Gizmodo reached out to Twitch multiple times for comment on Chechik’s case and other reported injuries in the foam pit this week but was either referred to Lenovo or told that the company was not commenting on the incident. Our most recent request for comment on Thursday did not receive a response from Twitch at all.
Lenovo, meanwhile, told Gizmodo on Monday that it was aware that some streamers sustained injuries in the foam pit at TwitchCon and that it was looking into the incidents with event organizers. It has not responded to repeated requests for comment since then, even those inquiring about whether Intel was a cosponsor of its TwitchCon booth and foam pit, given that its logo was clearly visible. Intel told Gizmodo on Thursday that it had no comment and referred us to Lenovo.
Gizmodo also reached out to the San Diego Convention Center to ask about Chechik’s injury in the foam pit and whether it had been in touch with her but did not receive a response.
Upon reviewing video of Chechik’s injury and analyzing available public information, two doctors that spoke to Gizmodo said that her injury is likely serious. They said it’s possible she will require physical therapy and in-hospital rehabilitation. Lawyers that assessed the public information available about the incident said there could be a potential negligence case against Twitch, Lenovo, and any other company or individual involved in setting up the foam pit.
Gizmodo spoke to three spine surgeons to get a better idea of Chechik’s injury. Although the doctors we spoke to did not have access to the streamer’s medical records and had limited information, they analyzed her jump into the foam pit and public statements about the care she’s been receiving to try to paint a picture of what might have happened. We also reached out to Chechik’s team for comment but were told she was not ready to release a statement to the media.
Two of the doctors we spoke to stated that it was possible Chechik suffered a compression fracture, which is what happens when one vertebral body compresses on another one. The force involved can cause weakness, breakage, or fracture in the bone. However, they also pointed out that she could have suffered a burst fracture, a more severe injury that involves fractures on the front and back halves of the vertebral body.
Dr. Oren Gottfried, a full professor of neurosurgery and spine at Duke University School of Medicine, told Gizmodo that the way Chechik fell into the foam pit suggests there was a significant axial load on her lumbar spine, which could have fractured the one or two vertebral bodies. Gottfried is of the opinion that the streamer likely experienced a burst fracture.
“Think about the injury resulting in compressing the spine together like an accordion, but the bones are firm and stiff, and they break apart from the contact of hitting each other,” Gottfried, said in an email. “Typically, this kind of injury can also fracture other surrounding bones, and sometimes bone fragments can compress on nerves. It is a very painful and serious injury.”
Gottfried explained that the fact that Chechik had surgery means she likely developed some spinal instability as a result of the fall. A lengthy surgery like hers aims to restore stability and support with instrumentation, such as screws and rods. Even with surgery, Gottfried pointed out, many people wear a restrictive brace for three months. He added that the pain from this type of injury can be very intense and hard to deal with, although it usually gets better over the first six weeks. The pain from surgery can be quite intense as well, Gottfried said.
After surgery, Chechik will likely require physical therapy in order to maximize recovery of her strength, range of motion, and mobility, according to Dr. Jonathan Stieber, a spine surgeon in New York City.
Meanwhile, Dr. Michael Yang, a neurosurgeon with subspecialty training in spine surgery at the University of Calgary, said the streamer’s post-surgery treatment will depend on the condition in which she emerged from surgery. Yang pointed out that since it appears Chechik has bladder dysfunction—she has stated on social media that she needs a catheter to pee—that will require rehabilitation. Furthermore, if she has problems with motor strength in her legs, she will need physical and possibly hospital rehabilitation.
The neurosurgeon summed it up this way: The worse her condition is, the more rehab she will need.
On the legal side, Gizmodo spoke to two personal injury lawyers about Chechik’s case on whether there were grounds for a lawsuit. Both stated that although their analysis was limited to reviewing only the publicly available information about the accident, Chechik and others who were injured could possibly have a potential negligence case against Twitch, Lenovo, and any other company or individual responsible for setting up the foam pit at TwitchCon.
Allan Siegel, a trial attorney and partner at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. in Washington, D.C., told Gizmodo that in order to prove a negligence case, it must be established that Twitch or Lenovo “failed to exercise reasonable care.”
“Based on the information reported so far, it appears that there may have been several failures in setting up the pit, including failing to make it deep enough to provide sufficient cushion to users, and failing to spread out the foam blocks sufficiently,” Siegel said in an email. Siegel added that the case would be subject to California law, since the incident happened in California at the San Diego Convention Center.
Luke Abel, a personal injury attorney at Abel Law Firm in Oklahoma City, said that the people injured in the foam pit at TwitchCon would likely bring a claim of compensatory damages and punitive damages, if warranted. Abel explained that if the parties involved couldn’t come to a satisfactory resolution or settlement, the case would typically go to a jury, which would decide the amount the injured parties could receive.
When asked about Twitch’s silence on the injuries suffered by Chechik and others at the conference, both Siegel and Abel said they were not surprised. Siegel pointed out that potential defendants are often advised by their legal counsel not to discuss a case in the media. In addition, words can be long lasting.
“Comments made by any party could potentially be used against them later in negotiations or at trial,” Abel said.
There has been some speculation over whether participants had to sign a waiver before entering the foam pit at TwitchCon, but it’s not certain whether that’s true. Polygon reported that one attendee said they did sign a waiver but were not given safety instructions. NBC News also reported that participants were asked to sign waivers.
Gizmodo was unable to confirm whether foam fit participants were required to sign waivers, but we did find that Lenovo, which sponsored the foam fit, asked people to accept certain terms and conditions. It posted the Terms and Conditions for participating on Twitter. Furthermore, Lenovo also encouraged folks to “take part in a pit dive yourself!” on social media.
Abel said the terms and conditions seemed to be pretty standard. Whether it will impact Chechik’s or any other person’s ability to sue will depend on the law in that jurisdiction, he added.
According to Gottfried, the neurosurgery and spine professor at Duke, patients with injuries like Chechik’s are asked to restrict their activity for the first three to six months after surgery so that they won’t stress or reinjure their back. After that time and some healing, patients can re-engage in more normal activities, he said. However, in the case of poor healing, people may have to wait longer.
“One can return to a normal life when all is healed, but some people have some lingering long-term pain or limitations,” Gottfried explained, pointing out that in rare cases, some people develop chronic pain issues and even arthritis around the area of injury. “If the surgery went well and people follow all the recommendations on allowing time to heal and limiting activities, they will do well.”
As for Chechik, the streamer seems to be trying to remain positive, even though she is still clearly in a lot of pain. On social media, she asked whether anyone knew where she could get her back brace blinged out since she was going to be in it for a long time. Chechik has been posting almost daily updates about her condition to social media since her accident last weekend.
Late on Thursday, Chechik also addressed people who have criticized her for jumping into the foam pit. Some folks, including in Gizmodo’s comment section, have called her stupid for jumping or said she got what she asked for. Her message: Don’t blame the victim.
“For the ppl asking why did u jump. Don’t try and turn me into the bad guy. I am among all those who assumed it was met with proper safety precautions. It’s like getting into a car assuming the air bag will work and it doesn’t,” she tweeted. “I’m not at fault. None of the victims injured are.”
Update 10/17/2022, 4:29 a.m. ET: This post has been updated with additional information posted by LochVaness.