Yesterday, four-time world champ skier Lindsey Vonn took a massive tumble during the super-G at the world championships in Austria that tore two ligaments in her right knee and broke a bone in her lower leg.
Ski racing is a tough sport and big spills are to be expected, but perhaps what makes this one a bit more intense is who it happened to—the dominant American champ—and that it threatens Vonn’s trip to Sochi Games next year. Even though she says she’ll be back in time, the possibility remains that perhaps the sport’s best won’t be there.
This got me thinking about how many sports are today talking about the importance of injury prevention, but often it’s the sports themselves that are just inherently dangerous. (Except baseball.) And as much as we might not want to admit it, it’s a big reason why we watch. How many “biggest hits” or “worst crashes” highlight reels have you seen over the years? Did you rewind the Vonn video to hear that yelp again? Exactly. But the balance between safety and inherent danger is a conversation just starting to seriously seep into sports like football and hockey.
During this year’s Super Bowl, the spectre of injuries past hung heavy. President Obama said if he had a son, he’d think long and hard about letting his him play football. Bernard Pollard, a safety on the champion Baltimore Ravens said the same thing, adding “Thirty years from now, I don’t think [the NFL] will be in existence.” The thousands of lawsuits flooding into the league’s head office certainly make it a possibility. And it’s impossible to create a concussion-proof helmet, you say? Hmm.
Mark Wilson wrote for Fast Company recently, “After talking to some of the brightest minds in helmet design, helmet testing and football physics, the elephant in the room became clear: A concussion-proof helmet is a pipe dream. If the NFL wants concussion-free football, they’ll need to redesign football.”
Talk in hockey primarily revolves around the head, but danger really spans the injury spectrum, and really, it’s no surprise. Grown men skating on metal blades at high speeds carrying sticks, trying to hit each other and shooting a vulcanized rubber disk at speeds exceeding 100 mph. No, nothing could go wrong there. Beyond the concussion concerns from body checking and fighting, you’ve got the threat of throat slashing, leg slashing, pucks taking out eyes and windpipes, and more. It’s all there! Sounds like fun, eh? With all these issue, can anyone believe Johnny Bower is still alive? Dude played goalie with no helmet and mask. Only thing protecting his melon was pomade.
Do we feel more responsible when it comes to sports in controlled environments? A hockey rink, football field, basketball court, even a luge track are all man-made. Is it somehow more understandable when an athlete is injured on the side of a mountain or in the ocean? Or are our sports arenas simply modern day coliseums where the crowds’ call for blood hasn’t completely been muted?