In India, sports and games are extremely popular, but people here are less aware than those in other countries of the injuries that could occur during such activities. And if the sport in question is not one of the better-known ones, the potential dangers are virtually unknown.
As an orthopaedic surgeon specialising in sports medicine, I have noticed that safety measures for adventurous sports in India are quite different from those followed in most western countries. In the West, STOP - Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention - is a movement which focusses on all mainstream sports as well as adventure sports, and creates awareness among the people about the potential hazards of each sport. Such initiatives are practically non-existent in India.
When it comes to adventure sports, teenagers are in even more danger than other sections of the people, as they are enthusiastic but reckless, and their ability to foresee risk is minimal. A minute of reckless excitement can lead to a lifelong disability. Safety is always linked with awareness, self-discipline and training.
Take care – it’s worth it!
The label of ‘Adventure Sports’ in India covers mainly trekking, rock climbing, parasailing, rafting, kayaking and skiing. These activities are harmless, provided essential safety precautions are taken.
To safeguard the child, the risks and facts about the danger involved in each adventurous sport should be clearly spelt out.
Prior to actively engaging in adventurous sports, trainers must ensure that their wards are fit and familiar with the demands of the sport.
Let us look at some adventure sports and the safety measures to be taken:
Teenagers love motorbike racing. But, how do they lay their hands on such vehicles? Worn down by persistent demands, parents often end up buying motorbikes for their teenagers. Speed gives them an adrenaline rush but it could cost them very dear - they could even end up losing their lives if they are not careful enough. Prevention, as the adage goes, is better than cure. Parents can prevent their children being involved in accidents by educating and guiding them. They should insist that safety equipment should be worn at all times. Taking out an insurance cover for the child will be of help in the unfortunate event of an accident.
- Disciplined practice is required for this sport
- Step-by-step instructions should be given
- A slipshod attitude towards safety is extremely dangerous. Warn the child that if each step of the set of instructions is not followed with extreme care, it may cost him his life or lead to lifelong disability
- The equipment used, such as helmets, shoes, ropes, etc., should be of good quality and should be maintained well
Trekking is a popular adventurous sport among teens. Unregulated trekking without expert supervision is dangerous.
- The parents of teens should understand the various facets of this sport and its demands, as well as the teenager’s attitude towards it.
- Teens should be made aware of the implications unsafe practices could have on their health.
- The whole trek – the routes, the stopovers, the food arrangements et al - should be well thought-out and meticulously planned.
- The team must stick to the plan unless an unforeseen situation or emergency warrants otherwise.
- If the trek involves crossing water bodies, life jackets should be made mandatory.
- Appropriate trekking shoes should be used as per the terrain being covered.
- A First Aid kit is mandatory, and should include medication for insect bites and even snake bites.
- Emergency communication means must be incorporated in the plans.
Some general precautions
Water bodies and heights excite teens. Today, accidents in lakes and rivers are all too common. The mania for taking selfies at points of extreme height or on water bodies adds to the danger. (The rock may look perfectly stable but it could be slippery, the water body may appear shallow, but due to sand mining and quarrying, that may be a misleading impression).
In general, teens should be trained in the basics of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They should also be taught the basics of rescue work. For example, they may need to use ropes to save a drowning person, and should know how to go about it quickly and efficiently.
Rescue and emergency care are team efforts. Those opting for adventure sports should be able to work in a team. Self-esteem and ego should be kept aside while danger lurks.
Remember, you have a prime role in making your child aware of the consequences of adventure sports. Even when your child is away pursuing her favourite adventure sport, you have a responsibility towards her safety.
So, as parents, be vigilant, be communicative, be firm in ensuring that your child is aware, trained and disciplined. His safety is in your hands.
Dr Pradeep Kocheeppan, MBBS, D Ortho, DNB, has considerable experience in the field of orthopaedics. His special interest is in Sports Medicine.