Hidden dangers of extreme sports

Extreme sports have gained a footing in Singapore, but they also carry an inherent high risk of danger and serious injuries.

Some of the more common activities include gliding sports such as wakeboarding, snowboarding and kite surfing; rolling sports like BMX and motorcyle racing; and non-vehicle sports such as rock climbing, endurance races and mixed martial arts (MMA).

Sports physician Dr Ng Chung Sien from Changi Sports Medicine Centre explained to The New Paper that such sports are action or adventure activities that require vigorous amount of physical exertion and their environment may also be more unpredictable and hazardous than conventional sports.

The popularity of extreme sports also led to an increase in the number of injuries related to extreme sports, added Dr Ng.

Most referred cases commonly came from people who practise MMA, ultra-marathon and obstacle races.


Mixed Martial ArtsPhoto: Evolve MMA

Dr Ng said: "The number of such (extreme sports) events and participation rates have gone up in the recent years.

"With more people taking up these sports, the number of injuries referred to us are also higher.

"Participants and organisers are also more aware of the risks of such sports, so we see a lot more people consulting us for medical advice prior and after such activities."

Before undertaking extreme sports activities, Dr Ng recommends that participants go for physical and medical check-ups.

"At the very minimum, complete a health screening questionnaire to check for any symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness or breathlessness during training, which will warrant further medical evaluation," said Dr Ng.

"One should also undergo some form of supervised training and seek medical treatment for any pre-existing musculoskeletal injuries prior to participation."

Photo: The Straits Times

For ultra-marathon runners, Dr Ng said that injuries usually result from repetitive stress to the bones, muscles and joints of the legs.

To prevent injury, Ford Lim, founder of Ultra-Running Singapore, warns against overtraining, committing junk miles and wearing new shoes on race day.

Mr Lim added that one should "tailor a training method that simulates the race profile".

"If you run across ridges with undulating elevation gain, consider an elevation-infused training.

"For instance, run to the summit of Bukit Timah Hill, or around the Spider loop at Mount Faber, which has many stairs," he explained.

"Also try cumulating metres until you reach 1,000m of elevation once or twice a week."

Mr Lim added: "Consider volume training with progressive increments through the weeks to allow the body to learn how to work under fatigue while holding on to a comfortable consistent pace."

Participants are also encouraged to look out for gastro-intestinal issues and unpredictable terrains.


KitesurfingPhoto: The New Paper

"Having a nutrition plan before and after the run is important.

"For instance, I take a sip of a 150-cal liquid every 20 minutes throughout the entire race," said Mr Lim.

For obstacle races such as the Spartan Race, Dr Ng said that common acute injuries include ankle sprains, ligament tears of the knee and muscle tears of the lower limb.

"The nature of the Spartan Race involves many obstacles and hazardous terrain where participants must jump, climb or crawl through," said Dr Ng.

"These races offer different levels of difficulty, so participants should choose the appropriate level best suited to their abilities."

He added: "In preparation for the race, I would recommend prior supervised training sessions with a coach, who will impart the proper techniques and skills required, and advise on what to improve on and what to look out for."

Mr Amir Khan, 22, a fighter at Evolve MMA, said that MMA is not as dangerous as people may think.

"Our bodies are trained and prepared to get hit, so we know how to protect ourselves such that our bodies won't get shocked," said Mr Amir.

MMA fighters wear protective gear such as shin guards, gloves, elbow pads and head gears to minimise the risk of injury.

Mr Khan, who trains twice a day, six times a week, added that injuries often result from overtraining.

"Don't overtrain. People may think training thrice or four times a day may improve their skills, but continuously training when the body is tired exerts stress on the legs and joints.

"You have to listen to your own body to know the limit."

This article was first published on Dec 26, 2016.
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