Life Threatening Extreme Sports

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are only games.”

No one’s pinned down the author of the quote, but people have kept repeating it.

The implication is that “real” sports must involve high levels of life-threatening danger.  Rugby, boxing, football, or luge don’t count.  The opportunity to break limbs, lose teeth, smash your face in, or get brain damage are not enough for extreme sport enthusiasts; you have to actually risk your life and get a sickeningly huge adrenaline rush for it to count.

In fact, some people define extreme sports as those activities that create adrenaline rushes for participants.

A few examples of extreme sports include:

  • Bungee jumping
  • BASE jumping (skydiving from a non-flying object)
  • Hang gliding
  • Sky diving
  • Rock climbing
  • Caving
  • Motocross
  • Ice yachting
  • Mountain biking
  • Speed skiing
  • Barefoot water skiing
  • Scuba diving
  • Cliff diving
  • Whitewater kayaking
  • Snowboarding
  • Wingsuit flying
  • Aggressive inline skating
  • Kite Surfing
  • Ice Climbing

The only extreme sport on this list that I’ve tried is scuba diving, and it felt very safe and un-extreme to me, unless you count the fact that some barracuda were swimming very close to us in the ocean on one dive.

I think I wouldn’t have dared scuba dive, though, if I hadn’t been taught the sport in a swimming pool, and gradually worked my way up to ocean dives, months later.

I did once sign up for a skydiving class, when I was 19.  I went to the classes, learned diligently, but on the morning of our actual in-an-airplane skydive, I remained frozen to the edge of my bed, in my bedroom, and wouldn’t even answer the phone as my friends from the class called to see what I was doing.

So, why do people want to do extreme sports?  Why are they willing to put their lives on the line for an adrenaline rush?  Don’t they value their lives?

At a website called Bandolier: Evidence Based Thinking About Health Care, there’s a chart where you can see how likely you are to die doing various extreme sports.

According to Bandolier, BASE jumping is the most dangerous extreme sport, and the safest sport listed is skiing.  Here’s a sampling of the list:

Risk of:

Dying while skiing:  1 death in 1,556,757 visits to the slopes

Dying while canoeing:  1 in 750,000 outings

Dying while rock climbing:  1 in 320,000 climbs

Dying of cardiac arrest, running a marathon:   1 in 126,000 runners

Dying while hanggliding:  1 in 116,000 flights

Dying while skydiving: 1 in 101,000 jumps

Dying while BASE jumping:  1 in 2,317   jumps.

Is it the sport itself or the danger lurking beneath the sport that entices people to participate?  Researchers say that extreme sport enthusiasts are usually very competitive in nature, and crave the respect and awe that successfully achieving a goal in extreme sports can bring.

The participants themselves say that they want to find out how much their bodies can do, and how far they can push themselves; others admit they’re hooked on the adrenaline rushes that come with near-brushes with death.

I work hard to keep my family members fed, clothed, protected and safe.   I don’t even let the people I love run with scissors.  Forget hanggliding over live volcanoes, kayaking over shark infested ice floes, bungee jumping with dental floss tied to your underwear, ice skating at terminal velocity or being the crash test dummy for a snowboarding run.

Extreme sportists are, to use the most accurate medical term I can think of — nuts.

But that’s just one woman’s opinion.


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