Since writing the article “How I Broke My Neck and Became Quadomated” 10 days ago I’ve received a couple messages from folks telling me they think about my injury every time they ski, how they’re more scared of skiing now, and take it easier on the hill. I’ve thought about these messages a lot over the past several days, and while it means a lot to me to know how much my injury has impacted so many of you, the last thing I ever wanted to do is make anyone more fearful of skiing. If anything, I want it to make you all take a step back, breathe in the fresh air, and really cherish those special moments on the hill.
Thinking back to my skiing injury, really makes me think how little my accident had to do with skiing at all. It was a fluke accident, on a very easy trail, at extremely low speed. Not to brag about myself or anything, but I was a dang good skier and probably more safe/stable skiing on that blue circle then I would be walking across the back yard. I could have just as easily tripped walking down the stairs, slipped on the ice, or fell out of bed and had a very similar injury to what happened to me on the hill.
- “During the 2011/12 season, 54 fatalities occurred out of 51.0 million skier/snowboarder days” this translates to a rate of fatality of 1.06 per million skier/snowboarder visits
- “Serious injuries (paralysis, serious head, and other serious injuries) occur at the rate of 44.7 per year” this translates to a rate of serious injury of 1 per million skier/snowboarder visits.
- “Most [skiing/snowboarding] fatalities occur in the same population that engages in high-risk behavior. Victims are predominantly male (85 percent) from their late teens to late 30s (70 percent)”
What these numbers show me is that skiing really is a pretty safe sport, and that my chances breaking my neck while exhibiting extremely low risk behavior are probably less than me winning the megabucks. Pretty crazy to think I’m a number in those statistics. And, too bad I hadn’t just won the megabucks instead!
To add even more clarity about the relative safety of skiing, and hopefully not scare you too much about everything else, here are some 2009 numbers from the National Safety Council (Injury Facts, 2011 Edition):
- 35,900 Americans died in motor-vehicle accidents
- 5,300 pedestrians were killed
- 8,600 died from unintentional public falls
- 4,500 died from unintentional public poisoning
- 2,400 people drowned while swimming in public areas
- 800 died while bicycle riding
And the Causes of Spinal Cord Injury Since 2005 from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (Spinal Cord Injury Facts and Figures at a Glance, 2012):
- Vehicular: 39.2%
- Falls: 28.3%:
- Violence: 14.6%
- Sports: 8.2%
- Other/Unknown: 9.7%
You are actually more likely to break your neck slipping in the bathtub then skiing.
What does this all mean?
If you really want to protect yourself from breaking your neck you better stop driving, going for walks, leaving the house, and interacting with people. Well, kind of, if you look at the numbers anyway.
But that’s not the point! The point is to live, and love, and have fun, and do awesome stuff with awesome people. This world is filled with risks and different ways that you could get hurt, but the being out there and doing fun/meaningful stuff is what makes it all so great. Don’t be fearful of skiing because of my accident, because really who knows what else could have your number, but embrace the awesome times while you’re out there. Smile a lot, surround yourself with awesome people that add to your life, and make the most out of every day… every single day!
The point of life is to live, and love, and have fun, and do awesome stuff with awesome people. Don’t sweat the other stuff!