Last week, I was sitting in the Aruba airport waiting for my flight to take me home to Charleston. I traveled to Aruba to speak at a medical conference – seriously. Not knowing how long it would take to get through customs, I arrived at the airport about three hours early. With so much time before my flight, I expected to work on my column for The Post and Courier or a Bleacher Report article. Instead I couldn’t take my eyes off of a nearby television.
The television station was showing some kind of competition where male and female athletes were jumping off of ramps, stairs, and other obstacles and doing flips and other stunts in the air. The participants weren’t on skateboards or rollerblades. No, they were just jumping around, bouncing off objects in normal shoes and clothes.
I couldn’t hear the audio, and no television graphic showed the name of this “sport.” It appeared to be sponsored by Red Bull, and the slogan, “The Art of Motion” appeared on many of the obstacles. Without knowing what this competition was, I frantically wrote down the names of the competitors to search for them online when I found internet access.
I was fascinated because the sport is a dream for an orthopaedic surgeon (and especially a sports medicine specialist). The athletes jump so high in the air and then twist and flip several times before landing. It is a recipe for musculoskeletal injuries. If these tricks aren’t executed perfectly, ACL tears, broken bones, and all kinds of other injuries will occur. And seeing that they are landing on concrete, these injuries could actually be worse.
Maybe the athletes I was watching were “professionals.” I didn’t see any terrible falls. But I wondered how they got to this level. Hopefully they had and still have enormous pads and harnesses to learn these tricks, like elite divers do. I suspected, though, that these were kids who were bored and just started doing these stunts for fun.
I landed in Atlanta, and my quick internet search showed that the sport is called freerunning. It appears to be based on a military training regimen known as Parkour. Sorry kids. You probably knew that, and maybe many of you participate in freerunning already. What can I say? I’m getting old.
Judging from the crowd watching that competition in Boston, clearly freerunning is popular. As an injury prevention advocate, I worry about free running or parkour injuries that will occur as less experienced athletes try these stunts. I would urge parents to talk to their daredevil kids and consider keeping them out of freerunning. To the youth of America, I would ask you to please be careful. And keep my office number handy. You’ll need it.