More acute less chronic

 

What are you doing to yourself? You may well ask.

 

Three or four years ago there were reports in the Daily Telegraph and the Independent, based on data from a specialist insurer, of a growth in serious injuries and deaths among the over 70's from participation in extreme sports.

What are you doing to yourself? You may well ask.

 

Three or four years ago there were reports in the Daily Telegraph and the Independent, based on data from a specialist insurer, of a growth in serious injuries and deaths among the over 70's from participation in extreme sports. Given the growth in participation in these activities among Silver Greys that is not surprising, even if it is concerning.

 

More recently, according to a study presented to the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) by lead author Dr Vani Sabesan, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Western Michigan University School of Medicine participation in extreme sports comes at the price of an increased risk of head and neck injuries. A review of data from America's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System covering the period 2000-2011 for seven extreme sports - surfing, mountain biking, motocross, skateboarding, snowboarding snowmobiling and snow skiing - showed a total of 4 million injuries being reported over the eleven years. Of those reported 4 million injuries, just above 11% were injuries to the head and neck - so serious.

 

However, it is important to put these findings, serious as they are, in the context of other studies showing the health benefits of sports participation, many of which are reported in SGSC. These benefits range from reduction in heart and lung conditions, lower rates of dementia to a report linking daily exercise to a lowering of the risk of breast cancer. A recent study, which we reported on, even linked maintenance of muscle mass in later life with a reduction in early death.

 

So where does that leave you?

 

Well firstly, there appears to be a choice between the risk of acute injury versus the risk of a chronic condition.

 

Whereas the acute injury has the possibility, at the more serious end of the spectrum, of being a life-changing event, the life-changing character of a chronic condition is inevitable. No doubt they are painful, but acute injuries do heal - and the fitter you are the quicker they will.

 

And secondly, there is the issue of making participation in these sports less likely to inflict an injury with such serious life-changing consequences. This comes down to equipment, and more importantly, physical preparation.

 

AOSS states at the end of its report into Dr Sabesan's research that it recommends helmet use for biking, skiing, snowboarding and other sports. Many experts agree, however although it seems the obvious thing to do, the trade-off is a loss of exhilaration and sense of freedom. Other experts contend that the wearing of helmets reduces minor injuries but doesn't reduce fatal injuries. Coupled with this there are anecdotal reports of an increased feeling of invincibility in the wearers of protective equipment that encourages rash behaviour and a lack of concern for others, especially on snow-slopes.

 

We are not suggesting that athletes whose sport involves jumping off cliffs or performing huge leaps on motor-bikes etc don't protect themselves. But not everyone is at such great risk as they are. Ultimately, you make up your own mind on that issue. However, there can be no argument about the merits of preparation, and in that we refer to physical training, about the benefits of which we go on endlessly. In our opinion, as well as making you better at your sport, physical training makes you less likely to suffer an injury and more likely to recover if you do.

 

So if, being a Silver Grey, you want to avoid ending up being a statistic, do the right thing and prepare yourself properly.

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