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6 Popular Extreme Sports and Common Injuries

High speeds. Tall heights. Real danger. All three are elements of various extreme sports, a branch of sports that has taken off in the past few decades; today, there are over 100 types of extreme sports, with dedicated television channels, internet sites, and competitions with big-name sponsors.

Often involving amazing stunts or risky situations, extreme sports (also known as action sports), can be competitive or non-competitive, and often take place in remote geographic locations where medical care may not be readily available. In addition, environmental factors such as snow or rough terrain can pose additional peril. Because of the dangerous elements involved and the lack of medical care, extreme sports often lead to injury, sometimes life-threatening.

Risk of Injury in Extreme Sports and Adventure Sports

1. Climbing

With the introduction of indoor climbing gyms and climbing walls everywhere from cruise ships to high schools, climbing has grown in popularity over the years; in fact, new climbing categories have even been invented, including ice climbing, speed climbing, canyoning, bouldering, and free solo climbing (a documentary on this rope-free method of climbing, Free Solo, even won best documentary at this year’s Academy Awards). With so many variations of climbing in existence, some are bound to be riskier than others, but a fall from any height can always result in serious injury or even death.

Some of the most common injuries as a result of climbing include:

  • Rotator cuff tears, a tear in the shoulder muscles and the most common injury among climbers
  • Subluxation (partial dislocation of the shoulder which happens when the ball joint extends too far forward during big moves)
  • Pulley tears (ligaments in the fingers that can become strained with too much crimping during climbing)
  • Tendonitis in the shoulders, elbows, and forearms caused by too much pulling on the muscles

2. Mountain Biking

This adventure sport has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, as it gives people a reason to get together in nature and create their own excitement. Susie Murphy, executive director of the San Diego Mountain Bike Association (SDMBA), calls mountain biking “the new golf,” because people have begun traveling around the country looking to experience new trails and new thrills.

Common mountain biking injuries include:

  • Abrasions and lacerations
  • Shoulder separation from a forward-fall over the handlebars
  • Knee and lower back pain (sciatica) from the repetitive nature of cycling
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (caused by tight gripping of the handlebars)
  • Broken clavicle (collar bone) caused when riders fall on an outstretched hand

3. Skateboarding

Skateboarding has been around since the 1950s, with the sport rising and falling in popularity over the next 50 years. Today, however, it has truly gone mainstream, as evidenced by the growth of skating parks, skating video games, and even children’s skateboards. But just because the sport has gone mainstream doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. Skateboarding sends approximately 70,000 people to the emergency room each year due to injury.

The most common skateboarding injuries, all due to falling from the board, include:

  • Abrasions and lacerations
  • Head trauma, such as concussions
  • Sprains and strains
  • Broken bones
  • Wrist fractures, from stretching out the hands to protect the face during a fall
  • Facial injuries, such as a broken nose or jawbone

4. Skiing and snowboarding

The two most popular snow sports, it’s estimated that there are 200 million active skiers and 70 million active snowboarders taking to the slopes every year. Despite being labeled as “extreme sports,” injury is actually lower than in traditional sports such as football, and improvements in equipment, ski area design and maintenance, and piste preparation (marking ski runs or paths down a mountain) over the years have also helped reduce injury. Still, accidents happen.

Some of the most common skiing and snowboarding-related injuries include:

  • Knee tears and sprains, the most common skiing injury, which usually occur when turning, stopping, or falling.
  • Fractures, most commonly to the clavicle (the collarbones), proximal humerus (the upper part of the bone of the arm), and tibia (lower leg bones).
  • Skier’s Thumb, which happens when a skier falls with their hand still in the ski pole strap, causing a ligament tear.

5. Skydiving

The United States Parachuting Association (USPA) estimates 3.3 million people jumped from an airplane in 2018, highlighting the growing popularity of this extreme sport. Of those jumps, 13 resulted in fatalities, the lowest in the history of the sport (it should be noted that most skydiving deaths happen to advanced skydivers attempting extreme maneuvers, not first-timers checking something off their bucket list).

Of course, injuries can and do happen upon landing. The most common skydiving injuries that occur during a bad landing are:

  • Abrasions
  • Lacerations
  • Concussions
  • Fractures
  • Neck and Back Injury

An offshoot of skydiving is known as BASE jumping (standing for Building, Antenna, Span [a bridge, arch, or dome] and Earth [a cliff or other natural formation generally less than 500 ft above ground level]). BASE jumpers use specially adapted parachutes to jump from fixed objects. It’s widely considered the most dangerous adventure sports in the world due to the precision-timing of pulling the chute. It’s estimated there are only 3,000 active BASE jumpers today.

6. Surfing

The surfing lifestyle, popularized in film, music, and clothing, has this sport growing by leaps and bounds. In 2002, there were an estimated 10 million surfers; today, there are 35 million surfers riding the waves in over 160 countries, and this number is expected to grow to an estimated 60 million before the end of the decade. While surfing is considered one of the safer extreme sports, it still results in fatalities (often due to drowning) and other injuries.

Some of the most common surfing injuries include:

  • Lacerations (cause by surfboard fins and sharp coral reefs)
  • Contusions
  • Head trauma (hitting the water hard, or colliding with an underwater rock or the surfboard itself)
  • Shoulder strain (rotator cuff impairment) due to paddling out to waves
  • Back pain caused by wipeouts

There are risks associated with any sport. However, extreme sports have higher rates of injury than most traditional sports because of their dangerous nature, environmental element, and the lack of access to medical care. Following a traumatic injury, loss of blood is often the cause of death. BandGrip, a 3.5”x1.5” bandage offering a non-invasive method of wound closure (it can also be tiled for large incisions), can be applied quickly during the “golden hour” in which stopping blood loss can save a life. BandGrip can also be used after surgeries to correct extreme sports-related damage, and offers quicker healing times and less scarring.

Find out more about how BandGrip is making life easier for surgeons and patients alike.

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