Tests show a severe back strain

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Sasha Cohen won't defend her
title at Skate America this weekend, withdrawing Tuesday because of
a back problem that doctors believe might be related to her
season-ending injury four years ago.

Cohen was examined in Chicago by Dr. Craig Weston, an orthopedic
surgeon, and tests showed she has a severe back strain. Weston
recommended she cut down on her jumps for four weeks, and do
intense physical therapy to strengthen her lower back.

"I have been having recurring issues and problems with back
pain over the last several weeks," said Cohen, the silver medalist
at the world championships last season. "Even though I was
experiencing pain during this time, I tried to skate through it and
train, looking forward to Skate America. Yesterday, it became
apparent to me and to my physical therapist that I needed a
professional to look at my injury."

Cohen missed the 2000-01 season because of a stress fracture in
her lower back, believed to be the result of a 3-inch growth spurt.
She's worked with a physical therapist the past 2½ years, but said
her back began hurting again a few weeks ago.

No one will replace Cohen at Skate America, which begins
Thursday in Pittsburgh.

"I was looking forward to competing in the first event of the
Grand Prix series and am very disappointed that I will not be able
to so," Cohen said. "Once my back is recovered, I intend to
vigorously train to prepare for the rest of the season."

She'll decide later whether she'll compete in her second Grand
Prix event, the Cup of China, which is Nov. 11-14 in Beijing.

Cohen, 19, won her first medal at worlds last season, finishing
second to Shizuka Arakawa. She was the runner-up to Michelle Kwan
at last year's U.S. Figure Skating Championships.