Published On: Sat, Sep 10th, 2016

8 of the most dangerous adventure sports

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When we talk about brain injuries in sports, we talk a lot about football. We mention boxing and mixed martial arts and might talk about repeated head trauma in soccer or hockey, but we mostly talk about football.

There’s good reason for that, but that doesn’t mean that less traditional sports are incident free or brain injury free. The adventure sports world was rocked by the revelation earlier this year that the autopsy of BMX biker Dave Mirra, frequently described as a “legend” or “icon” of the sport, who died by suicide, showed signs of the degenerative brain condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, something we normally associate with football.

A recent study tallying head and neck injuries in “extreme sports” — the sorts of activities featured in the X Games — found that as participation in these sports continues to rise, so does the incidence of concussions and head and neck injuries.

As a September Outside Magazine feature notes: “Mirra’s diagnosis, along with mounting scientific and anecdotal evidence, has many pros wondering if we’re on the verge of a CTE epidemic among action-sports athletes. More shocking are the signs of widespread health consequences from concussions in the amateur ranks — people like you and me.”

This is a real concern.

Based on the aforementioned study (which analyzed 4 million extreme sports injuries that occurred between 2000 and 2011, 11.3% of which were head or neck injuries) and some other available data, here are the some of the risks for injuries that adventure athletes face, with a particular focus on head and neck injuries.

A note: This isn’t meant to discourage participation in these sports. But awareness of risks should encourage people to properly prepare, motivate people to seek medical attention in case of an accident, and hopefully provide a reason to put on a helmet.


 

Skiing: People who ski report high numbers of concussions, according to the study, though part of that is due to the large number of skiers. Skiers also face an especially high risk for ACL tears and other knee injuries.

Lukas Gojda/Shutterstock

Lukas Gojda/Shutterstock


 

Snowboarding: Snowboarders face the highest concussion risk of the athletes in the study, with a risk per-hour spent riding that’s triple that of skiers.

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson


 

Snowmobiling: Snowmobilers didn’t have particularly high injury rates in this study, though risks of skull fractures were higher than for other winter sports. Other studies have shown risks for serious injury and death, often related to snowmobiling after drinking.

Fred Thornhill/Reuters

Fred Thornhill/Reuters


 

Motocross: There wasn’t enough data to calculate injury rates per-hour spent in the sport, but motocross riders had the highest incidence of broken necks; 27.6% of all reported neck fractures in the study came from motocross.

Maciej Kopaniecki/Shutterstock

Maciej Kopaniecki/Shutterstock


 

Skateboarding: By far, skateboarders were the most likely to suffer a skull fracture. They also had the highest overall risk for head and neck injuries.

Anthony Geathers/Getty Images

Anthony Geathers/Getty Images


 

Surfing: Surfers had one of the lowest concussion rates in the study, but had especially high rates of neck fractures — 38 times higher than skateboarders.

Darryl Oumi/Getty Images for TAG Heuer

Darryl Oumi/Getty Images for TAG Heuer


 

Mountain biking: Using the per-hour spent doing the sport calculation, mountain bikers’ risk for neck fractures was second only to that of surfers.

zachd1_618/Flickr

zachd1_618/Flickr


 

Wingsuit flying: Wingsuit flight is in a category of its own, not nearly common enough to be studied alongside other adventure sports. But it’s perhaps the extreme activity with the highest risk of death. One study found that 72% of BASE jumpers had witnessed a death or serious injury, and wingsuit flying is one of the deadliest forms of BASE jumping.

REUTERS/China Daily

REUTERS/China Daily

Courtesy Business Insider

About the Author

Syed Ammar Alavi

- is Lahore (Pakistan) based journalist & writer with 25-year experience in print, wire and broadcast forms of journalism. His major fields of interest are politics, film,tv,sports, climate change and technology

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