The medical professionals treating the acrobats who fell during a circus performance in Rhode Island say two of the women have spinal cord injuries and that time will tell whether they will walk again.

Timothy Babineau, CEO of Rhode Island Hospital's parent company, said Wednesday the eight injured acrobats are determined to heal as quickly as possible and return to doing what they love.

Their neurosurgeon says two can feel their legs but have only limited movement. It may be a year or two before it's clear whether they'll heal completely and walk again.

Doctors say all of the acrobats will require physical therapy. The women want to undergo rehabilitation as a team.

The accident happened Sunday during a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus performance in Providence, when eight acrobats fell to the ground after a support frame collapsed during a hair-hanging stunt. A dancer on the ground was also injured.

Initially, 11 people were admitted to hospital in varying conditions.

The accident is the focus of an investigation.

One of eight circus acrobats who plummeted about six metres to the ground during a hair-hanging stunt says she's thankful she's alive and wants to return to the ring.

"I'm hoping to join back up with the tour and show the world that I'm OK, and I'm hoping some of the other girls will do the same," Samantha Pitard told The Associated Press on Tuesday after she was released from a hospital.

Pitard and seven other acrobats were in an act described as a "human chandelier," in which they were hanging from an apparatus by their hair. They were injured during a Sunday performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus when a clip at the top of the chandelier-like apparatus snapped, dropping them to the ground.

Only 1 can walk

The other women who are from the United States, Brazil, Bulgaria and Ukraine are still hospitalized.

Pitard, 23, an American, said she is the only one of the troupe who can walk on her own. The others need assistance or have not tried to walk because they are still undergoing operations. But she said the others are expected to fully recover and everyone is in good spirits.

"Every single one of us in the troupe, every single circus performer, knows that they are risking their lives every time they go out there to perform or practice," she said. "We hope it doesn't happen, but we know that we are taking that risk, and we love it enough to take that risk every day to make people happy."

Pitard said it was a normal day and normal performance on Sunday. The curtain dropped to reveal the eight women suspended in the air, but it went wrong as soon as they did their third leg position.

"We heard a huge crack, huge noise, and then we were just plummeting to the ground," she said. "It was very fast. I remember everything."

Couldn't feel her legs

The 160-kilogram chandelier fell on top of them. She said the rescue crews got to them quickly to free them from the apparatus, then give them medical attention.

"I was sitting up, and once I caught my breath, I was looking at all the girls," she said. "I wanted to know that everybody was OK. I saw my troupe leader (Viktoriya Medeiros), she was right next to me, and I heard her say that she couldn't feel her legs."

The paramedics instructed her to lie down.

Pitard described her injuries, including fractures on her spine, a cut on her head that required three stitches and a badly bitten tongue, as minor.

Local investigators have completed an initial probe into the circus accident and are turning over the broken clip and other material to federal workplace safety investigators. Fire investigator Paul Doughty said investigators have narrowed down the cause of the broken clip to two possibilities: a manufacturing defect or improper use.