Most sports carry some degree of risk, even with protective gear and thoughtful rules in place. Athletes need to take additional steps in protecting themselves from harm.
With that in mind, here are five ways people who participate in extreme sports can make their passion safer and have more prosperous careers.
1. Prioritize Rest and Recovery
Athletes in extreme sports tend to play at one speed and intensity level. They’re always on the move looking for the next challenge, listening to their competitive instincts rather than the voice of reason. That’s why you often see football and hockey players struggling through injuries. They’d rather brave the pain for their teammates and coaches than think about their personal health.
While this mentality is admirable and might help them win a few more competitions, it doesn’t make much sense in the long run. Athletes need to do a better job of prioritizing their rest and recovery now so they can have more enjoyable lives off the field or court.
Thankfully, we’re seeing this change across many sports. Players in the Big Four American sports are willing to rest for some of the regular season to get fresh for the playoffs. Olympians, X-Games professionals and bodybuilders compete in fewer events than they used to – not because of injuries, but because they have enough money to comfortably retire without putting their bodies at further risk.
2. Always Play With an Audience
You should never participate in a high-risk sport without a trusted coach/partner and medical professionals close by. Even if you play within the rules and wear the necessary gear, things could take a wrong turn at any moment. Life isn’t always fair.
Many athletes film their practices and games and review the footage afterward to identify their weaknesses. While film might not have an immediate impact on the sport’s safety, it enables you to make more deliberate adjustments and put yourself in the best position to succeed. Whether the audience is yourself or another person, make sure someone watches your back.
3. Control the Field of Play
We cancel practices and games for bad weather because the field conditions become too unstable. The players and coaches might not always like it, but we take this precaution for the safety of themselves, the officials and the spectators. We don’t want any unnecessary injuries to occur, so why not take your efforts a step further?
Control the field of play by installing glass, fences, netting and other protective layers to shield spectators from the action and keep the sport within its assigned boundaries. Baseball faces the greatest challenges in this regard, as over 800 fans were injured by foul balls between 2012 and 2019. The MLB added more netting in 2018, but it remains an issue for the league.
We all assume some risk when attending these sporting events, but players and league officials can do more to keep the ball within the field of play and ensure spectator safety. Whatever sport you play, make sure the field has adequate security measures in place.
4. Don’t Try This at Home
Sports commentators often say, “don’t try this at home” to emphasize the difficulty and risk of an athletic accomplishment. You should take that phrase seriously. Don’t try the stunts you see on television until you’ve acquired the necessary skills and experience. If you never reach that level, you should never have a reason to try it.
The best athletes know their limitations and play within those limitations at all times. They don’t prematurely push themselves outside of their skill thresholds for temporary fame. In fact, they tend to be more practical than the average fan. If they want to try something new, they practice until they’re confident in themselves. You need to have the same humility and self-awareness.
5. Learn How to Fall
Knowing how to fall is something you learn the hard way, but you’ll have to deal with a few cuts and bruises if you want to become a smarter athlete in the long run. If you ever find yourself in a precarious situation, try to fall on your side or buttocks to cushion the impact. Roll over and turn your head in the direction of the roll so your body falls in the most natural position possible.
A thorough warm-up routine will also benefit your coordination and reduce the risk of injury. Learning to control your body in awkward moments will make you a much more confident athlete.
Be a Safer and Smarter Athlete
Being an athlete requires some degree of physical and mental sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean you need to be reckless with your health. You need to be a safer and smarter athlete. Prioritize your recovery, play in a controlled setting with proper supervision, know your limits and learn how to fall when things go wrong. These efforts will make your sport safer and give you a longer career, no matter how extreme.