The fascination with Fatal Sports
Updated: Nov 21, 2020
Arjun Rohit Vikraman
11th November 2020
Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz JR in Diriyah Arena, Saudi Arena (Source- Getty Images)
The nature of sports makes it dangerous in general, and this is an undeniable fact for anyone who is an active participant in it or enjoys being a spectator. They require people to push the limits of their bodies to reach new heights of physical existence. But people sometimes tend to push too high, and just like Icarus, they can end up getting burnt. The dangers associated with sports can be of different kinds. Every sport can have its athletes suffer- from a scraped knee to life to fatal injuries- immediate or in the long run.
In sports like racing, the chances of a driver crashing into a wall at 300 kilometres per hour are genuine, and the prospects of them surviving- pretty slim. Mountaineering is a sport where thousands of people are injured every year after slipping from a rock or falling. Death is not uncommon but more so are missing persons. For other extreme sports like skiing, there are about a thousand ways by which a person could die on a ski mountain. You could hit a tree, fall from a cliff, or you could get hit by an avalanche. But the majority of the deaths occur during the groomed, easy to moderate runs and not on expert courses.
In a sport like boxing, and its cousins MMA, every athlete walks away with an injury. Whether the injuries are as small as a black eye or a fat lip, or something even more severe, they can take a toll on people after some time. Most participants in either boxing or MMA leave the sport with some lasting injuries, whether it's vision problems, speech impediments, coordination problems, or even brain damage. Approximately ten people die every year due to injuries sustained during a boxing or MMA bout. People who want to get into either boxing or MMA have to train by fighting, and you don't get paid to train. Numerous careers end even before they could enter a professional ring because they don't know what they are getting into and get injured or because their body fails to take the toll. The same can be said for all fighting sports.
Sports that aren't considered that extreme can still be regarded as dangerous or fatal- Football being an example. Even though it may not be considered a contact sport per se, it still has plenty of contact, which results in bodily harm, considering that football is a low scoring sport, where every point counts- players in the sport tend to take it very seriously. This has resulted in plenty of injuries during matches, some even being fatal enough for players. Rugby is a sport where a couple of hundred-pound men slam into each other with no padding whatsoever. Also, keep in mind that everyone wears a pair of boots with spikes attached to the bottom. Doesn't that sound very dangerous? Rugby is one of the toughest sports known to man- the danger level being in the top list. Yet, thousands of people play the sport every year, and thousands more watch it.
Even though people are aware of all the dangers that are associated with sports, people all around the world still choose to watch as well as participate in them. The reason why people take part in sports which can be fatal to their lives is more than them being 'adrenaline junkies' with 'death wishes' because there are many easier ways to die than falling off a cliff while skiing in the alps and they are aware of that too. What motivates people to participate in extreme sports is the satisfaction of the grind—the hard work and practice they put into the sport and the satisfaction of having finally accomplished something after numerous failed attempts. That deep sense of satisfaction is what they are chasing—that feeling of having achieved something challenging and the deep contentment that comes with it. For them, it's something personal rather than adrenaline.
Most importantly, we have to remember that these athletes spend most of their lifetime trying to perfect their sport and minimize their risk. They learn all there is to know about their chosen sport because just like gambling, which is another field with perceived risk, the key is gaining enough knowledge to mitigate that risk and increase the odds of success, or in some sports- survival. Obviously, the risk is real. There are way too many obituary entries of professional athletes worldwide, which remind us about the risk they take every day. But that hasn't stopped the increase in popularity of extreme and dangerous sports all over the world.
For people who try out a particular sport, their reason is usually more straightforward than it is for professional athletes. It might just be thrill-seeking or experience-seeking, or they may want to try some new sport because they are susceptible to boredom and want to avoid doing the same thing twice.
A lot of the evidence points to the fact that numerous sports that are getting even more popular every day are still fatal even though progress has been made in terms of safety in all kinds of sports.
According to research, one reason as to why humans still enjoy such brutal sports is that even though the human brain is the result of billions of years of evolution, our behaviour is guided much more by our 'primitive brain' than the more recently developed neocortex, which is the seat of intelligence. Because of this, when we watch sports, things like our basic fight or flight mentality is manifested. For example, we can sympathize on some deeper and unconscious level with an F1 Driver who gets overtaken by a competitor but throws it into the next gear and chases after him. Our primitive desire for dominance is represented in sports. We love it when the team that we support wins. We experience a feeling of dominance over the opposition team and their fans. Our primitive warring nature is satisfied with sports. The innate desire for war is still there, even in the so-called 'modern' man, because almost every sports game is like a tiny war between tribes, with an end and a declared victor.
(Source- Mental game coaching, Bleacher report, Adventure magazine, Outside online)
Edited by- Nivedita Dutta