Yesterday after I slammed my head into the squash court wall, there was enough blood on the floor and in my cupped hand that I wondered if I had a concussion or was going to need stitches for the ¾ inch gash above my right eye.

Later while watching the Olympics, I grimaced during the three crashes I saw in the women’s downhill ski competition. And Lindsay Vonn won a gold medal in that event in spite of her pained shin, her almost-ripped-off thumb.

This morning I read about a snowboard athlete, Kevin Pearce, who wiped out in training and is in rehab learning how to walk again. Shaun White (gold medal snowboarder) has experienced a list of injuries from his sport that makes one pity his mother: He fractured his skull, broke his right hand and right foot and was knocked unconscious—all by age 11.

Now that I follow professional athletes—or even the amateurs I know—we are all getting injured all the time. It comes with the territory. But I lived for decades without messing up my body. I didn’t have broken anything, much less limps, bruises and aches. Can any of you who play sports imagine such a pain-free existence?

I can’t any longer. Though I am not taking the extreme risks of the pros, who might die or be permanently disabled from their passion to play and excel. I still can’t grasp those rock climbers who fall to their deaths with one slip of the finger. Unimaginable.

In an article about the dangers of Olympic winter sports, I read that Statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission make clear just how dangerous winter sports can be and not just for Olympians: 139,332 Americans were injured while skiing in 2007 and even more, 164,002, got hurt while snowboarding that year. And when looking at all winter-sport injuries, including sledding, snowmobiling and ice skating, 10 percent involved a head injury.

Why do we all do it, to whatever degree? Read the rest of this entry »

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