6 Sports Too Deadly for Gym Class
Dodgeball takes a lot of knocks in gym class for being dangerous, but it's got nowhere near the death rate of these sports. Here's a look at six sports you wouldn't want your kids playing in gym class.
1. Pakistani Kite Flying
Every year Pakistanis celebrate the beginning of spring with Basant, a joyous festival with music, horses, flowers and kites. Well, actually, scratch the kites; they were banned by the Pakistani government. The tradition of flying kites competitively on Basant was resulting in a surprising number of deaths. Over the course of the festival, the Pakistanis created a tradition of not just flying the kites, but battling them. Bands on the streets would play whenever someone's kite strings were cut, which led to people replacing their kite string with razor wire to up their advantage. The competitive nature of the kite flying has led to a shocking number of deaths, from cuts from razor wire to people falling off roofs or being hit by stray bullets. After 9 deaths in 2004 and 20 in 2005, the Pakistani government established the kite-flying ban. Bowing to public opinion, the government lifted the ban for the 2007 Basant, but that only resulted in ten more deaths. With odds like those, Charlie Brown's probably lucky he never got his kite off the ground.
2. Pole Vaulting
When two pole vaulters were killed within five days of each other in 2002, the chairman of the USA Track and Field pole vaulting safety committee wasn't even shocked. After all, the flaws in pole vaulting had been clear for a while. With at least 18 deaths since 1982 out of only 25,000 participants, pole vaulting has the highest rate of death of any American sport. Most of the deaths came from high school competitions, where the rules aren't consistent between schools, let alone states. The size of the landing pad was the main culprit; the American Society for Testing and Measurement recommends a landing pad more than 21 feet wide and 16 feet long, but most schools had mats far smaller. Helmets were also an issue- there was no standardized helmet, so most competitors used a bike or skateboard helmet, if they had one at all. Since 2002, though, the Kevin Dare Memorial Fund (set up after the death of Kevin Dare, one of the 2002 fatalities) has been lobbying for increased safety and laws requiring helmets. The efforts seemed to have worked, since no deaths have been recorded since Dare's.
3. Pro Wresting
One of the most talked-about sports stories this summer was pro wrestler Chris Benoit's murder-suicide. Not as talked-about were the deaths of three fellow pro wrestlers since Benoit's death. In fact, since 1997, 65 pro wrestlers have died before they turned 50, according to journalist Dave Melzer. That's the equivalent of 186 MLB players or 435 from the NFL. Most of wrestling's deaths can be linked back to steroid use, whether it's an overdose or organ failure brought on by steroids. People are quick to blame WWE promoter Vince McMahon (who had his own death faked earlier this year) for the rampant drug use, since he once urged athletes to bulk up to drive up ratings.
PLUS: Ivy League football (pre-1905), and more, after the jump!
4. The Dakar Rally
The Dakar Rally sounds like something straight out of a movie: it's an off-road race with few rules, tricked-out cars, plenty of danger and, once, the disappearance of Margaret Thatcher's son. The rally got its auspicious beginning in 1977 when racer Thierry Sabine got lost and decided it would be a good place to have a race. Since then, it's been held annually starting in Paris and ending in Dakar, Senegal (or some approximation of those cities). Even though it's legally sanctioned, there aren't many rules, which has resulted in a whopping 48 competitor deaths, or 1.7 every year. 2005 was a particularly deadly year, with five deaths, including a five-year-old spectator who ran onto the road. In 2007, the organizers established speed limits to curb the deaths, which did result in a successful race, even though less than half of the contestants even made it to the finish line.
5. Football, pre-1905
Before 1905, one of the most popular plays in football was the flying wedge, where players would form a "˜V' around the ball carrier and protect him down the field. With plays like that and no passing, it should come as no surprise that football was a much more brutal sport. In fact, it was so brutal that 18 players died in 1905 alone, including three college players. That prompted president Teddy Roosevelt to call football's "Big Three," Princeton, Yale and Harvard (just imagine when those were football's top schools), to the White House and force them to reform the rules or he would declare football illegal. They went with the first option, getting rid of the flying wedge and legalizing the forward pass. Even still, it took a while before all schools adopted the new rules and made football safe (1909 saw 33 players killed), but eventually the pact among schools became the formal NCAA we know today.
6. BASE Jumping
BASE jumping is a sport with very simple rules: take a parachute, find a tall object, jump. It takes its name from the four objects athletes jump from: Buildings, Antennae, Spans (bridges, etc.) and the Earth (cliffs and other natural formations). Not surprisingly, a sport that involves jumping into thin air has a pretty high death rate, mostly from parachute failures. William Harmon represented the modern era's first BASE jumping death when his canopy failed in high winds after a jump from a 1,000-foot antenna tower. Since his death, 114 others have died, which works out to about 4.5 every year. As a tribute to those who died, the fatalities are all recorded at the BASE fatality list.