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Commentary: Skiing may be one of the most dangerous disability sports around

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This was originally published on Quora on January 20 as Laura Hale’s answer to Which sport is considered the most dangerous?.

Surprisingly, there is not much collected data on dangerous sports, if by dangerous people mean “chances of dying”.  The little data available suggests for all sports, disability or other, BASE jumping is probably the one most likely to result in death.  There do not appear to be any disability specific chance of death statistics out there.
As a reporter, I’ve talked to a fair number of Paralympic athletes.  I’ve asked them this question off the record, because there are some sports for the blind that seem… inherently more risky than others.  The consensus appears to be Para-Alpine Skiing .  Things get trickier: B1 (completely blind) skiers are ones that are considered the craziest ones around.  Completely loco.  Seriously nutso.  Can you picture going down a mountain with a skier behind you on a radio telling you left right faster slower while going about 100 kilometers an hour?  Yeah.  It takes a special person to do that.
Despite this, there is an acknowledgement that sit skiers are as nutty for a different reason.  Why?  Because lots of these paraplegic risk breaking their backs if they are the first ones going down a mountain the first time. While good event organizers for elite skiers try to make sure the course is good for sit skiers, it doesn’t always turn out that way.  Hard landing for a not great experienced skiers? Back broken.  They can’t use their legs to absorb the force.
There is a real issue of sit skiers being unable to stop in ways that able-bodied can.  Falling on their side is not a guaranteed way to stop.  It is really not good when ice is involved or when steep slopes are involved.
Another issue for sit skiers, and specifically paraplegics, is they cannot feel frostbite.  This makes the sport more dangerous.  They can end up with an accidental case of frostbite for this reason.  (There are also random stories of people burning their legs when waxing, because again, lack of feeling.)
These three things for me put Para-Alpine Skiing , and specifically the sit-ski variety, up there as one of the most dangerous ones around.


Laura Hale
About Laura Hale (2569 Articles)
Laura Hale is a sport journalist, specializing in Paralympic and disability sport news. Prior to helping found ParaSport-News, she spent two and a half years working as a journalist on Wikinews, a citizen journalism site. As a journalist, she has covered the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, and a number of other sporting events. She has additional experience with Paralympic sport having worked as a Wikipedian in Residence for the Australian and Spanish Paralympic Committees. She has a PhD in Communications from the University of Canberra.

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