There are reasons some sports are called extreme. They are fueled by the adrenaline that kicks in when a challenge awaits and accomplished with reservoirs of energy most people could not muster. They are addictive, out of the ordinary and risky. The sheer risk associated with these extreme sports is the biggest reason they exist in the first place – and the biggest reason they are so controversial.
Caleb Moore’s crash at the Snowmobile Freestyle competition in Aspen, Colorado this January wasn’t the first crash at an event, nor will it be the last. As the Denver Post reports, Moore’s subsequent death a week later after complications resulting from the crash, however, is not something anyone in the extreme sports world wants repeated. In the wake of his passing, the permits handed out for special events will undergo a meticulous re-evaluation, as reported by Newsday, in order to lower the chance of any such incidents from occurring in the future. For its part, ESPN has cancelled the Snowmobile Freestyle competition for ensuing events. Moore’s death, however, brings up the inevitable question: are extreme sports too extreme?
Photo Credit: nic_r – flickr.com
Mere days after Moore’s accident, U.S. Champion Skier, Lindsey Vonn, injured her knee in a race crash, and a new report links snowboarding to increased injury rates on the slopes. It’s worth pondering just what is driving daredevils of all extreme sports genres to risk serious injury in order to compete. KKCO 11 News in Grand Junction, Colorado, recently spoke with professional mountain biker, Nick Simcik, about what drives him to risk so much while tearing down a mountain on his bike.
“Risks are part of every day life,” he said. “We’re just continuing to do what we love and so it doesn’t feel like an unnecessary risk… there certainly is that element of potential danger and injury, and potentially worse, but that’s kind of why we do it – the thrill of it.”
The “adrenaline rush” or the “thrill” Simcik spoke of is really just the stimulation of the adrenal glad through an activity that places stress on the body. With extreme sports, that stress is magnified to untold dimensions. The average person who just plays basketball or baseball with his friends on the weekends doesn’t have any real sense of the hormones coursing through the body the same way an extreme sports athlete does.
The sports medicine doctor KKCO spoke with, Richard Price, says the “thrill” Simcik mentions can be addictive, and the increased adrenaline can allow extreme sports athletes to often walk away from falls and spills that would normally ruin someone who wasn’t so hopped up on endorphins that counteract the pain.
Dr. Price goes on to say that since extreme sports athletes will continue to push beyond the accepted standard, they often force their body to places it can’t deal with, which leads to major injuries. The danger is part of the excitement that comes from participating and competing. In Simcik’s case, that means hurtling down the side of a mountain on a bike. For other Adrenalists, jumping, diving or attempting to fly might be the name of the game. Where we see hazardous peril, extreme sports athletes just see an increase in the hormone that brings excitement, pleasure and fulfillment to their everyday lives.
That’s why we call these people Adrenalists. So, while the unfortunate death of Caleb Moore and the injury of Lindsey Vonn is a sobering reminder of what is being risked during extreme sports, the reminder isn’t necessary for their practitioners. They’re more intimate with the vulnerabilities and the risks than any of us could ever be. It’s the reason they do what they do.
Cover Photo Credit: nic_r – flickr.com