As the leaves change and we bundle up for cooler weather, an entire new season of sports is starting. Just like many of you, I enjoy sitting in the brisk fall air and watching a game or tracking local team’s stats on my phone. However it isn’t until something happens to one of our favorite players that we remember the risks that come with athletics, and that some sports aren’t as physically friendly as others.
From rugby to football, fall is full of “high risk” sports. What makes them so risky? The major commonality on the list below is that they are considered full contact in nature. When playing a full contact sport, the likelihood of injury is usually not due to personal error, although the better prepared you are the safer you will be, but more so caused by the fact that one player cannot control another’s actions. All the protection and pads in the game (if there are any) can’t change that.
Below, in no particular order of severity, are a few major fall sports and their most common and detrimental dangers.
Full Contact Sport Trauma
Come September in the Northern Hemisphere, rugby players (who have recovered from last season) are back in the scrum, and ready to go. Rugby, unlike football, is limited when it comes to padded protection. Some players will wear padded shirts and sometimes a scrum cap, but those protective means are hardly impenetrable. They are there, mostly to protect against scrapes, ear injuries and soften harder blows.
The most common rugby injuries are focused on the lower body such as MCL tears, calf muscle injuries, hamstring injuries and thigh hematoma, some of which require hospitalization and surgical repair. However, the most severe injuries are head and neck related. It is common for a player to suffer a concussion and risk the chance of permanent brain damage.
Originally played to showcase brute strength, water polo is anything but gentle. Aside from being full contact, it’s also aerobic, meaning that the body never stops moving, keeping the heart rate at a constant aerobic pace. The athleticism, without which staying afloat would be impossible, is intense and requires hours of training. Add to that two teams of players kicking and pushing against one another, and injury is inevitable.
The most common water polo injuries are actually from overuse. Chronic injuries such as tendonitis, knee and shoulder problems, or growth-plate related injuries develop over time. Contact injuries are generally acute and include shoulder dislocation, tendon and ligament tears and deep muscle bruising.
Unlike water polo, most hockey injuries are a result of direct trauma. Each time a player gets checked or makes hard contact with the boards, there is the potential for debilitating harm. Injury statistics say that for every 100,000 players, 2.55 of them will suffer from a severe non-fatal injury, the most serious of which are cervical spine, concussion, orthopedic and dental. With a professional puck speed of 120 mph, no wonder so much medical attention is required.
Beside the normal wear and tear of any contact sport, the more serious issues pertaining to football injuries are connected to brain damage. Consistently getting hit hard enough to cause a concussion is being connected with permanent damage that leads to the onset of dementia and other long-term consequences. Beside that concern, other serious injuries related to football are cervical spine injuries and heat related deaths due to overwork and dehydration that occur during practice.
As great as these sports are to watch and even play, the possible damage is quite a serious matter, and should be taken into account by both athlete and fan. Trauma, especially to the head has been taken too lightly in the past because the average concussion symptoms subside within a few days. However, according to studies over the last few years, a brain injury should never be considered mild, as concussions have been proven to lead to a range of permanently debilitating conditions, both mentally and physically, in the long-term. As fans and players alike, we need to consider what we are asking of ourselves and others when it comes to full contact sports, and if there is a way to promote a safer game without losing the heart of the sport itself.
Obviously, the sports listed are merely examples that belong to a much lengthier list of sports that includes such activities as boxing, wrestling and lacrosse. Which fall sports do you consider to be the most dangerous?
- License: Creative Commons image source
- License: Creative Commons image source
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bf/Mercyhurst_hockey.jpg
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d8/2006_Pro_Bowl_tackle.jpg
Annalise Proctor, an avid reader, writer and Chicago transplant, with a love of hockey and a strong concern for the health of a number of family members involved in the sport. She insists on spreading long-term injury awareness and promoting conscious change one article at a time. Read more of her work on the Advanced Physical Medicine blog.