Going a Bit Off Topic….Inherent Risks of Physical Activity

Posted: March 22, 2013 in Articles, Golf

Yesterday was the first round (ok, the second round) of the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament, which just happens to be my favorite time of year. I enjoy the tournament more than Christmas and I usually spend the entire first two days watching games. Yesterday, was no different except I noticed there were quite a few games where the play was stopped by the referees to review plays in order to see if a foul was too excessive. This morning, there were explanations by the NCAA for the fouls as the NCAA is trying to make the game safer. This is a common theme throughout sports. The NFL is under a great deal of scrutiny over concussion issues as they scramble to make rule changes to make the game safer. The NHL, NBA and now the NCAA are all doing the same things. There are many people who agree with these rule changes and just as many who do not. I personally fall somewhere in the middle of these opinions. I think the games need to be safe, but I also feel there is an inherent risk of being involved in a sport or physical activity and each sport has different inherent risks and by changing the game too much you drastically take away from the things that make these games special.

However, I feel the current rules that were suddenly being enforced in the NCAA tournament yesterday went a little too far in protecting players. One flagrant foul involved a player ripping the ball through with his elbows, not swinging the elbows. A technique used to protect the ball. For those of you who understand basketball, this is not a dirty play, this is a basketball play. Unfortunately, an intent defender got hit by this elbow. The second flagrant foul involved a very athletic player who was fouled on a fast break. This player was moving very quickly down the floor and jumped very high in the air on a layup. The defender, trying to make a play on the ball missed the ball and caught the offensive player either on the face or on the shoulder, making very little contact. However, because this player was so high in the air and moving so quickly this contact resulted in a very dangerous fall. I do not want anyone to get hurt, I want that to be clear, but remember there is an inherent risk when participating in physical activity. When you play tight defense, I feel there is an inherent risk that you might get an elbow to the mouth. If you do not want an elbow to the mouth, do not play tight defense. When you jump four feet into the air on a layup against a defender, I feel there is an inherent risk that you will not come down to the ground in the safest possible fashion. If you do not want to fall out of the air while shooting a layup, do not jump as high.

While the rules I am complaining about are about basketball, I think it is important for people to realize that this super safe trend we see in sports is happening in many facets of life. I feel that often times some of the measures we are taking to make us safer might actually be putting our health and quality of life at risk. I think a lot of measures we take put us in a bubble, a smaller bubble, which can drastically limit us. Physically, bubbles may cause us to move less, or move in fewer ways. Spiritually, bubbles limit the experiences we have. A good example is hiking alone or in treacherous weather. Most people choose not to do this because of the inherent risks involved such as falling, getting bit by a snake, freezing to death or attacked by a bear. Meanwhile, these people sit on the couch for hours a day, in a “safe spot.” I can’t quote the statistics, but I know physical inactivity causes a lot more deaths than snake bites and bear attacks. At the same time, those that choose to abstain from something like a hike in the snow miss out on some amazing experiences, experiences the TV and couch cannot give you.

The point I am trying to make here is, as humans, we are trying to make ourselves invincible and avoid all injury. Unfortunately life carries many inherent risks. Furthermore, I don’t think we are putting the proper thought into how our protections may actually be harming us, making us more vulnerable to poor health or taking away the excitement of life, thus harming our quality of life. I am supportive of most rule changes in sports which are implemented to make us safer because the end result will be better health. However, by protecting our athletes too much I feel we may be preventing them from using their bodies in the ways the body is supposed to be used. More so, when rule changes drastically affect a sport it can take some of the enthusiasm and spirit away from the sport; keeping people from participating in the sport. I guess losing all of these great things about life and sport are the inherent risks of being safe but I will take my risks in choosing to be active.

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