Living on the Edge – The Harmful Side of Extreme Sports

Johannesburg, 16 May 2016. Sports junkies putting themselves through brutal territory all in the name of feeding the beast within is an all too familiar tale. The growth of sports has seen an increase in professional and an emergence of amateur extreme sports enthusiasts. Terrifyingly, you find that some people who have been fit all their lives and have participated in endurance sports suffer conditions generally associated with being inactive.

Extreme Sports and Longevity

There is no significant evidence linking endurance sports with longevity – no long-term, broad-based studies have been satisfactorily undertaken, because the phenomenon is relatively new. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, which plays a leading role in the fight against preventable heart disease and stroke, 10 people will suffer a stroke and five people will have a heart attack every hour in South Africa. The uptake of extreme sports is growing and more and more people are getting into the craze but that grit may be fatal. While it may not necessarily appeal to the masses, there are a large number of people who find fulfillment in participating in these high endurance activities. It is our differences that make a society interesting, so while it may not be for everyone, high-risk activities contribute to the diversity of our culture. Although it is good for you, some extreme athletes turn to push exercising beyond healthy limits.

Extreme Sports and Training

Extreme sports requires rigorous training and excessive exercising which places the body under tremendous pressure and may lead to or cause heart problems. Graham Anderson, CEO and Principal Officer at Profmed, says, “While the signs of a heart attack are similar to those of a stroke, both incidents can be fatal, as they attack two of the main organs in the body. Extreme sporting activity can put strain on cardiovascular functions and this can cause a heart attack.” The past two years have seen a significant increase in heart attacks and strokes among those who take part in increasingly popular extreme sports and sporting activities like ultra-marathons and ultra-triathlons. The approaching Comrades Marathon, the 91st edition of the world’s biggest and oldest ultra-marathon is set to be ran in South Africa on Sunday, 29 May 2016. Many athletes and enthusiasts would’ve been training and preparing for this event months in advance.











This highlights the importance of proper exercising and dietary recommendations to be adapted for such events. This includes rest time as it is a vital part of training, as well as education around the differences between heart attacks and strokes in case of an emergency. Interestingly, recent studies have revealed that people with existing heart diseases are more likely to have a fatal stroke or a heart attack if they overdo high intensity exercise. The other suggested that young men who undertake endurance exercise increase their risk of developing an irregular heart rhythm later in life.

Extreme Sports and Hearth Attack

Anderson says that knowing the signs and symptoms of both a heart attack and a stroke can assist in practicing preventative health measures. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart muscle is blocked, usually by a blood clot. Without oxygenated blood, the heart muscle begins to die. A stroke is a brain attack, cutting off vital blood flow and oxygen to the brain. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel feeding the brain gets clogged or ruptures. Some symptoms include chest pain, numbness of limbs, dizziness, severe pain in the head and difficulty with vision, balance and speech. Anderson notes that as soon as an individual feels any of these symptoms they should slow down and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Anderson concludes, “When people decide to take part in various extreme or strenuous sporting activities it is important to make sure that they have trained adequately for the event. It’s also advisable to consult their doctor to ensure that their vital signs are at stable/normal levels and able to take the strain of the necessary training. “It is also imperative that individuals give their hearts and bodies sufficient recovery time between extreme sporting events so as not to overstrain the heart by not giving it ample recovery time. Exercising and keeping fit are crucial elements of staying healthy, but people need to be aware that over-exerting themselves during exercise and sports activities can also have detrimental – or even fatal – effects.”


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