Competition, Violence, and the Assumed Risk of Extremity

The Complicated Balance Between Injury and Entertainment

Aaron DeBee

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Getting punched in the face hurts. So do high speed car accidents. The existence of the risk of injury in sports is not the mystery we pretended it was with the NFL. Now, in order to maintain the charade, we have to keep pretending we’d have done anything to prevent it if we’d only known.

Therein lies the rub. I suppose it’s possible that in some bygone era a century or so ago, we really didn’t know that repeated, violent, blows to the head could cause permanent injury. That seems unlikely, though, since violence has been around forever, and therefore so have people living with its long-term effects.

No one got kicked in the head by a horse and suffered permanent injury in the 1800s? No took a beating at the hands of a war enemy that left them permanently traumatized? I find that hard to believe. The great myth of sports is the suspension of disbelief surrounding the injury risk of dangerous activities. It’s not that we didn’t know or suspect; it’s that we didn’t care.

And that’s pretty awful, right? If we approach it from the standpoint that we’re obligated to disallow people to take on risks they know are potentially harmful to them, then yes. However, we have to be comfortable, then, with the idea that we’ll be eliminating a lot of what makes sports entertaining.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not claiming that injury and violence are inextricable necessities of the level of entertainment modern sports supplies. Extreme physical performance is, though, and that carries with it the risk of injury.

Do we tell rock climbers that they can’t climb because they might fall? Do we tell distance runners the toll on their bodies is too great? Where do we draw the line for the risk of injury to which a player is allowed to choose to subject themselves?

I agree that accidents and intentionally damaging activities may be different animals. Driving a car 200 miles per hour is dangerous, but the intention is not the collision. Shall we…

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Aaron DeBee

Freelance Writer/Blogger/Editor, veteran, Top Rated on Upwork, former Medium Top Writer in Humor, Feminism, Culture, Sports, NFL, etc.