What’s worse than spraining an ankle, fracturing a wrist, pinching a nerve, and having your spine swell up all at the same time?
Old people’s ideas on what’s “hip”.
Okay smarty pants, now that we’ve got the obvious ones out of the way, the answer I was looking for was “doing them one after the other”.
If you haven’t gathered already, the above list of injuries is what I’ve sustained in a surprisingly eventful start to 2013, and I must say, injury stacking is fantastic! This way, I’m out of action for a month or two total, as the injuries heal simultaneously. It would truly suck to bust an ankle, sit around waiting for it to heal, then bust a wrist. It’s even better given that my injury run coincided with the worst February weather I’ve ever experienced, so I’ve only missed a few glorious days of sunshine.
I used to say that slacklining isn’t as dangerous as most people think. Given the January I’ve just had, I stay away from that phrase now. That’s not to say I believe it any less than I have in the past. If anything, I believe it more than ever. However, I stay away from the phrase simply because people don’t believe me.
And in their defense why should they? That’s quite a disturbing list of maladies, to be sure. Let’s just keep things in perspective though. For the first four years of my slacklining, I never injured myself beyond a few bumps and scratches. Two years ago, I made a conscious decision to push the limits of what’s possible, and try things nobody around the country was trying. Unsurprisingly, things didn’t always go according to plan, and it would seem my good luck has finally come to an end.
That said, for a sport that involves massive dynamic transitions with spins and flips across a thin, highly tensioned line generally rigged more than a meter off the ground, the injuries listed aren’t all that serious. My spine is still in-tact. I’ve never properly broken a bone (only fractures). My head hasn’t taken any serious beatings, and I’ve never dislocated or required reconstruction of a joint. Compare that to athletes of other sports, and I come out looking like an unblemished china vase!
What’s more, for such an unpredictable apparatus, the injuries I’ve sustained were surprisingly predictable. I busted my wrist falling from a longline rigged above head height. I busted my ankle trying backflips without crash mats. I busted my back doing back bounces, and I busted my groin diving into water from great height from a highline (okay, so sometimes things aren’t so predictable, but anyone can tell you that something might go wrong when jumping off a 10m highline into water).
So I no longer tell people slacklining isn’t as dangerous as it might seem – instead, I say that slacklining is as dangerous an activity as you choose to make it. That might sounds silly – why would anyone expose themselves to more risk than necessary? – but I truly believe that the most satisfying and beneficial results can come from exposing ourselves to carefully managed risks.
As the UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents puts it in their guidelines for school trips, “… a young person’s development should not be stifled by the need to consider the worst consequence of risk, without estimating its likelihood and balancing this against the possible benefits”.
There is no doubt that injuries suck – they stop us doing what we love, after all. To avoid doing what we love for fear of injury, however, is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. If you want to push yourself to progress, you are going to hurt yourself. Before you get there, ask yourself the following: how much are you prepared to risk to get to where you want to be? What injuries are you prepared to sustain? Over time, you will be forced to spend beautiful days sitting around at home, limbs strapped and aching and doing mind-dullingly boring rehabilitation exercises. During those times, you can sit around feeling like the victim of terrible luck or stupidity – or you can take satisfaction, knowing that injuries are merely an unavoidable consequence of progress.
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