Fringe Friday – the danger edition

on July 2017 | in Sports | by Dario Passarelli | @Papadart | with No Comments

At some point as a sports fan you see an athlete narrowly escape a fatal injury and it makes you wonder hmm, what is the most dangerous sport in the world. There may never be one true answer as data often enough is a little difficult to collect, specially through the minor ranks as no sport goes around advertising their deaths and injuries. The funny thing is, depending from what walk of life you come from and what sports you are familiar with, the answers vary greatly and yet, because there are many ways to judge danger, all those different answers seem… right.

Most people in Canada for example might think hockey because, well, that’s all most people in Canada think about. I have read many articles on the most dangerous sports and some have included hockey in their top 10. Not hard to fathom when you consider the speed players are going at these day and the boards are very unforgiving when you get smashed into them. The one good factor that might keep hockey out of the Top 10 is that (thankfully) since 2001 the sport doesn’t have as many deaths as the others. Regardless, it can still be a dangerous sport without proper coaching and or not focusing on what’s happening around you.

For the United States I believe they would pick football or boxing. They are both “violent” sports with not only the potential of head trauma but with a repeated amount of head trauma. The effect of concussions is a daily topic in sports these days and it is easy to understand why. Now the reason, possibly, as to why football isn’t ranked in the top 5 is because their number of on-field deaths or those directly related to a specific football incident is also low. However, more studies are coming out and it seems that retired football players are more suicidal and that they are at risk for early death, dementia, parkinson’s disease by a whopping 10 years compared to peers. A similar sport, wrestling, as scripted as it is, also falls into this category. There have been a number of safe tackling techniques that have been developed that hopefully will help mitigate these numbers in the near future.

If we move across the ocean, Europeans might say soccer. Ok, they won’t say “soccer” they will say that their brand of football is one of the most dangerous. Really? I mean 99% of the time those players are faking injuries right? Plus they have that magic spray that fixes everything. Well, it doesn’t fix everything. Sadly, in the same time frame as the other sports mentioned above, soccer ranks second with 67 noted deaths since 2001. Most of them are due to cardiac arrest on the pitch or shortly thereafter. There is this stigma about soccer players not needing to be as fit as other athletes. Quite the wrong stigma.

The top sport on many lists as the most dangerous is base jumping. Like you, I too wasn’t even aware that was a sport. Apparently, there have been over 200 deaths and these are mostly attributed to parachute failure or crashing into cliffs and wires. It is easy for someone like myself to sit here and wonder why in the world would you even try something like that, but in all honesty, who am I to judge? If someone does it for a reason that makes sense to them then I believe each adult has a right to make up their mind.

Which brings me to the Barkley marathon. The more I keep hearing about this race the more I am befuddled by what people do “for fun.” On the flip side, I have complete and full respect for not only those that win this race or finish it, or even for those that just start the race. I will give you full respect even if you just start training for this race, that’s how nuts this is. Trail racing might not qualify as a dangerous sport, but it is an absolutely crazy, mind boggling sport that insanely pushes a person’s limit far more than any other.

The Barkley Marathon quite simply is a 100 mile (160 km) running race through the woods with a vertical climb of 54,200 feet. Oh, and you only have 60 hours to finish it. It is considered one of if not the most torturous ultramarathons in existence. The race started in 1985 and since then only 15 people have actually completed the course. There has been no finisher in 55% of the races.

I don’t believe there have been any fatalities, but the course in itself is a killer. Running with no markers, possibly in the dark with only 2 water stations in the 20 mile course, which must be run in 5 laps. It is a gruelling physical, mental and emotional challenge that the body, mind and spirit should really not undertake. What could possibly be worse? Ask Canadian Gary Robbins who ran the race in 2017. He missed the 60 hour cutoff by 6 seconds.

There are no words for that feeling.

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