Wednesday, 6 March 2013

From the UBC dialogues on "Is sport worth the risk?"

I had the pleasure to be a part of the UBC dialogue series on “is sport worth the risks”?

What I gathered from the dialogue was that sport is a bit general, is it sport as we see it, or recreation? If we see it as Sport that is pushing the limits, then we can really dig into the risk factors. For example, grass roots league hockey vs. the NHL. This follows with the other aspect, safety in sport.

Example of Hockey:

Grass roots should not have hitting; this should follow similar patterns to school, where each grade has a shift in level appropriate to the age. When the athlete reaches a certain age, then the full impact of hockey can take place.

At the upper levels, the full realm of the game should be played and respect for all players must be adhered to. The elite level, NHL, has an increase in risk, with the level of all players being so high, but the risk is not just accepted blindly, but taken into account as part of the player’s ability to deal with the risk is at the same level as their athletic level.  Accidents do happen.

It would seem that the safety equipment is at a very high level, and this may well be the cause for certain recurring injuries, like concussions. The shoulder and elbow pads have such a good protection level for the player’s impact, but what about this impact of the opposing player? At 30mph, getting hit in the head by a hard shelled elbow seems to produce knocked out players. This did not happen as often 10 years ago with the small soft elbow pads, as the elbow’er would feel the impact as much as the opposing player. Don Cherry of all people has been a big proponent on removing the current elbow and shoulder pads to a soft protective impact.

At the elite level sport is worth the risk, as the actual risk is not as high as the public perceives it. We do though need to ensure that those coming up the “ranks” know all aspects of their game, and not just respect it, but all others playing it. Athletes such as Lance Armstrong failed to respect the game and the other player’s; he was in it purely for himself, otherwise he would have played the game at the respect of the sport level. This is the other risk of sport, the lure of fame and fortune.  Lance has proven that he was no longer in it for the sport, but for the fame and the business, millions of dollars were at stake.

Here’s the unique thing with the sport of climbing, safety and risk are always at the forefront of the sport. Every year the gear gets better for safety, which does help with the risk. However, now we are in an era where risk has been greatly decreased because of the gear. The media has also played a major role here, where they focus on the snippets of “rad” and leave out the effort and behind the scenes – all the work it takes to get to the level of these “snippets”.

Back to the “Is sport worth the risk? – YES! However for the grass roots, recreation-sport should not have risk until the participants can handle the risk.

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