A team of Olympics doctors published injury statistics from the 2021 Tokyo Olympics
in the British Medical Journal on 13 December.
The big headline is that BMX racing is officially the most dangerous Olympic sport, with 27% of competitors suffering an injury. It takes those honours just ahead of boxing (also on 27%) and BMX freestyle (22%). While the statistics do give an overview of the types of injuries sustained it is not fully broken down by sport and neither BMX nor MTB appear explicitly in the breakdown of specific injuries so we can only guess.
Mountain biking sits in the lower third of the table, nestled between basketball and artistic swimming. Notably, more mainstream sports like football and golf had higher rates of injury. Although, artistic swimming had a much higher illness rate than mountain biking. Surprisingly, athletics is right up there on the injury stakes with the 6th highest rate.A technical course, but fewer injuries
What is most striking for mountain biking is the progression of the sport - it is arguably the Olympic sport with the most improved safety record. In Rio the injury rate among mountain bikers would have ranked it as one of the most dangerous sports in the games, at 24%. Yet, by learning from the event in Rio, this came down to just 7% injury rate in Tokyo - even with racing in the rain. What makes this statistic more important is that the course in Tokyo was far more technically challenging than in Rio, with some significant jumps and drops. This suggests that with good course design, safety is not a solid argument for dumbing down race courses.
Of course, mountain biking is still some way behind road cycling in these statistics, which had an injury rate in Tokyo of just 2%. Although before any triumphant road cyclists start declaiming how much safer their sport is, it is worth remembering that the Olympics are raced on closed roads, which eliminates the very real danger of death by automobile that road cyclists face every day.
This does make road cycling among the safest Olympic sports, alongside diving, rowing, marathon swimming and shooting. All of these sports had injury rates of 1-2%.BMX in context
To put these injury statistic in context, 9% of all athletes competing in the Games suffered an injury, so BMX athletes have more than twice the injury risk of athletes from other sports. Within those injuries, BMX racing also has the highest risk of more serious injury (requiring more than one week away from training for recovery), although karate is not far behind.
One popular myth that these statistics do bust is that freestyle riding is inherently dangerous. Surely the assumption would be that as soon as you start tricking jumps the danger levels shoot up. Yet despite all the impressive flipping, spinning and flairing on show, it still had a lower injury rate than the more established discipline of BMX racing. This suggest that it is the chaos of other riders that heightens the danger, not the complexity of the tricks.
These reports are published after each Olympic games as a starting point to make the Games safer. It is worth saying that as a new sport, it would be expected that BMX freestyle has a more significant injury rate than an established sport as organisers learn the particularities of the discipline. Although the challenge is going to be how to make BMX freestyle safer, without comprising the sport's integrity.
How anyone thinks golf isn't a sport is beyond me. Just because your heart rate isn't doing 180bpm doesn't mean it's not a sport. I haven't even played Golf in years but it's an incredibly difficult game and if you get injured you will know exactly how much of a sport it is when you can no longer do it well.
Golf at its most "prestigious level" can be played by anyone with the ability to get a ball in a hole regardless of their athleticism. Not saying that it isn't a tough game, it truly is, but its a game.
noun: sport; plural noun: sports
an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.
Golf has physical aspects. Golf requires skill at the top tier. Golf is competitive between individuals. Golf is televised for entertainment.
Golf is absolutely a sport. Go mouth off about your preferred drivetrain and brakes, this is just goofy.
noun: golf, plural noun: still not a sport
An activity that is commonly enjoyed at retirement homes due to its peaceful nature and low levels of "physical exertion". Warning: may require slight movement of the hips
Golf has physical aspects... Similar to Darts, Foosball, Pool, Competitive Eating, Fishing, Etc...
Golf, although a difficult game at times, is not a sport.
(by extension, slang, Internet) To limit another party's participation in a collective identity or activity, usually due to undue pettiness, resentment, or overprotectiveness.
Golf is literally, by definition, a sport.
Unless, of course, you're also going to contest that Red Bull f*cking Rampage also isn't a sport.
I think the statistics would be even more useful if it graded the seriousness a little more in the direction of stuff that creates real health issues you have to live with, or at least had a column for injuries that keep you out of the sport for months.
(Interesting statistics anyway though!)
There are more than a handful of BMX athletes that are retired because of TBI, CTE, or some sort of paralysis. I didn't do much more digging, but even in the late '80s early '90s, I didn't hear much about such severe injuries. Around 2008 when BMX was introduced to the Olympics, more and more athletes are getting severely injured. I'd venture to guess the larger, faster, and paved tracks have some role to play.
I would definitely want to see the context of the golf injuries. Did the shuttle taking them to the clubhouse get into a collision?
Golf injury shattered my skull into 32 pieces and a traumatic brain injury. They said I was never going to talk again but luckily it took me two years to relearn (I was 9, and was f*cking around when my friends and I were playing golf, ran behind a buddy while he was swinging and he caught me on the follow through)
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