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Extreme Sports – How Young Athletes Can Stay Safe

Dr. Nicholas Sgrignoli, primary sports medicine physician at HSS Stamford.
Dr. Nicholas Sgrignoli, primary sports medicine physician at HSS Stamford. Photo Credit: HSS

Action sports have captured the attention of an increasing number of athletes who are looking to push the limits. Along with the sense of adventure and creativity, the inherent danger with action sports is part of the draw for many young athletes, who may consider themselves adrenaline junkies! Whether mountain biking, skateboarding, rock climbing, snowboarding/skiing, surfing or doing parkour, there is something about the risk that makes every success more rewarding. As with any athlete, the goal is to continually push oneself to go bigger, faster and higher!  

Despite the known risks, every athlete would agree that it’s much more fun to participate than to sit out due to an injury. So even within high risk sports, the adrenaline seeker should consider a few ways to prevent injury while staying active.  

Weather is often an uncontrollable variable for most extreme sports. When heading to remote locations, it is always best to be prepared for the worst: 

• Always bring supplies that will help sustain you for longer than your planned outing. 

• Understand your terrain and do your best to scope out the area prior to going big. 

• I recommend always having a partner with you, especially when traveling to remote locations. Talk with your friend before the trip and discuss an emergency plan. How will you contact help if needed? How can you prepare for unexpected weather? Exit plans?

Hopefully, when you are plowing a new line down the backcountry powder you will never need to seek emergency care. One of the best ways to prevent injury is to use protective equipment. This varies depending on the sport, but a helmet is generally recommended for most extreme sports. Head injuries account for the majority of life-threatening injuries in extreme sports. If you sustain a head impact or whiplash, don’t be ashamed to seek medical care. Some of the symptoms of a concussion can be more subtle and even be delayed by hours.

Lastly, the physical strain placed on one’s body during extreme sports is higher than many team sports. An athlete’s strength and agility must be in peak performance when placing such high loads on the body. Many injuries occur either at the end of the day when fatigue has set in or before a proper warm up. Being well rested and knowing when to call it a day will save you from watching the action from the couch.  

Ultimately, action sports provide many great opportunities to appreciate the outdoors and to challenge your physical abilities. With the proper planning you can help prevent many common injuries and stay active.