The quest for overachievement is one which has become central to current U.S. culture. Driven by a growing sense of beating peers, parents and children stretch limits to outperform and win. Probably, sports, particularly so called "dangerous sports", represent one most notable area in which (helicopter) parents and children compete to achieve excellence. In pursuing an eternal dream of overachievement, children (self motivated or, more commonly, pushed by parents and coaches) are subject to a host of risks in contacting one another during physical activity, a concern which only highlights growing debate over whether dangerous sports particularly football and ice hockey should be banned altogether or not, particularly for younger practitioners. For each side, dangerous sports are accepted or rejected based on merits in arguments promoted by each side. For proponents, (dangerous) sports should not only be practiced but encouraged at an early age for confirmed physical and psychological benefits. For opponents, multiple physical injuries, concussions and, not least paralysis, are often cited as "medical" evidence of why dangerous sports should be banned, particularly as no perceived benefits are shown to ensue from practicing dangerous sports. Either way, sports remain central in human physical activity and should not be banned. This paper aims, hence, to support playing all sorts of sports, including dangerous ones, for short and long range benefits far outweighing presumed risks.
Typically, dangerous sports as football and ice hockey are rejected based on "confirmed" medical evidence of physical harm caused to professional and amateur athletes. Notably, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is cited as one most critical physical harm resulting in irreparable damage for athletes (Sepkowitz). By contacting one another physically – and, for that matter, violently – football and ice hockey players develop brain damage caused by frequent concussions. This argument is also supported by arguments of overexposure to violent content propagated in media, content which makes participating in and watching of "violent" physical activity enjoyable.
The rejection of so called dangerous sports is further supported by arguments based on current parenting style. Specifically, parents are pushing children beyond limits in order to achieve when, according to opposing views, overuse injuries and overtraining and burnout are among most problematic issues caused by participation in "extreme" or "dangerous" sports (Brody). This persistence in pursuing extreme sports is coupled by further specialization in aerobics and exercise drills aimed at enhancing specific body muscles, a practice which only denies athletes broader practices in different physical activities (Brody).
Thus, dangerous sports involving direct and "violent" physical contact during practice are rejected based on medical justifications, parenting style and broader media influences informing current unacceptable extreme physical activities. This view of direct contact sports as dangerous is, if anything, skewed and can be countered based on at least three main arguments.
First, although not all sports are equal, different sports have different comparative benefits for practitioners. For one, football and hockey involve a great deal of physical contact for all practitioners of all ages. In rejecting football and ice hockey based on physical consequences (including, most notably, concussions and CTE), opponents fail to recognize both short and long range benefits garnered from practicing football and ice hockey. Notably, children need to develop a capacity for physical risk at an early age, a capacity which can hardly be developed later in age or in other activities (O’Hanlon). Thus, in rejecting sports as football and ice hockey, physical injury (which can, in fact, be avoided by different means as shown is suggested shortly) cannot be accepted as sole, let alone conclusive justification.
Second, football and ice hockey – as examples of so called dangerous or extreme sports – can not only be justified but promoted for psychological reasons well beyond conventional ones achieved in practicing sports in general. Mainly, football and ice hockey are shown to develop an athlete's, particularly younger ones, self-affirmation (O’Hanlon). Indeed, if pushing limits is viewed by opponents of dangerous sports as a negative aspect for which athletes should be banned from further practice, one can view pushing limits in more positive light by stretching one's capacities rationally (as is discussed shortly). Further, if pushing one's limits is acceptable in many areas including science and math, why not in sports? The case can be even made that, based on extreme mental (as opposed to physical) efforts) exercised in science and math, science and math should be banned altogether for excessive, stressful effects caused to human brain. The case against dangerous sports is made more explicit probably because sports, compared to science and math, exhibit immediate, physical injuries for all to see and consume in media without proper and reasonable discussion.
Third, physical injury has always been part of sports. True, caution should be made against all possible reasons for injury of whatever sort. Yet, if injury alone should be assumed as a one and only reason for avoiding specific kinds of sports altogether, one should, based on such argument, stop promoting, let alone funding, Olympic athletes who experience high levels of risk in physical contact during pre0game exercises or games. The story of Laís Souza is particularly insightful (Williams).
Practicing for her a qualifier of 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Souza was recognized by her coach as exceptionally gifted and hence put her ahead of schedule for 2014 Winter Olympics in Sushi, Russia (Williams). Time pressed, she and her training mate, Josi, started an intensive skiing program to qualify. Having been notified of her qualification, one week prior to games, Souza and Josi trained together only to find herself (Souza) paralyzed by falling right into trees downhill. Tragic as is, Souza's accident is insightful of risks besetting athletes performing acts during actual games or training exercises. This narrative could, of course, be assumed as a clear evidence of how dangerous risks should be banned altogether lest younger athletes emulate such risky behaviors. In fact, if one morale can be learned from Souza's story – and. For that matter, similar stories – risk remains integral to life. In pursuing one's goals, one needs to have risks. Or else, why have not all skiing athletes stopped skiing when news of a damaged arm, leg or even a complete paralysis has occurred to one athlete or another in one dangerous sport or another?
Brody, Jane E. "For Children in Sports, a Breaking Point." The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 24 May 2010. Web. 11 May 2016.
O’Hanlon, Shane. "Should children be allowed to play dangerous sports?" Ethics of Sports. Word Press, 17 November 2014. Web. 11 May 2016.
Sepkowitz, Kent. "It’s Time to Quit Ignoring Sports Head Trauma’s Very Real Dangers." The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast, 3 February 2012. Web. 11 May 2016.
Williams, Margaret Cheatham. "‘The Other Side of the Mountain’." Online video clip. The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 13 May 2015. Web. 11 May 2016.