The Roulette Wheel Of Life!

Acturarial Correspondent

With recent caving accidents appearing high in the news lately, many non-cavers have been given the impression that caving is a dangerous sport only to be attempted by either the mad or the madly brave. To try and tip back the balance on which sports are 'dangerous' or 'safe' here are a few facts taken from Focus Magazine's August issue.

Many of the everyday sports that society takes for granted such as football or sailing put your life at risk to a much greater extent than parachuting or our own favourite, caving! A recent sports council survey shows that rugby tops the dangerous sports list with 95.7 injuries per 1,000, compare this to alpine skiing which has only 2.6 injuries per 1,000. These are not the only two surprising figures, football scores at 64.4 per 1,000 compared to martial arts and boxing with a lower 45.9 per 1.000.

At face value these figures seem surprising but with a little further thought they begin to make sense. Dangerous sports such as scuba diving require the participants to be trained before they actively take part in the sport but anyone can take part in a game of cricket with little or no practice before hand, facing 90 mph balls with a high risk of injury.

According to the British Parachute Association out of the 250,000 jumps per year the fatality rate is only 2 deaths every 3 years. In our own world of caving over the past five years there have been an average of 2.6 fatalities and 14.2 injuries per year out of the 11,000 cavers in the UK. Again, if you look more closely at these figures they are even better, last year's fatalities were the boy scout up at Gaping Ghyll and a businessman who suffered a heart attack on a management course. Putting that into the previous format there are 1.53 injuries or deaths per 1,000.

The table below summarises other common sports, do you now feel safer playing badminton instead of caving?

Rugby 95.7  
Football 64.4 This accounts for 29% of all sports injuries.
Hockey 62.6  
Mountain Sports 56.2 This is for every mountain sport including the idiots up Ben Nevis and the like in trainers in N
Sailing 51.7  
Cricket 48.7  
Martial Arts/Boxing 45.9  
Motor Sport 29.7  
Badminton 28.7  
Squash 23.9  
Athletics 23.9  
Tennis 23.1  
Basketball 18.6 Figures from USA
Gymnastics 17.8  
Keep-fit 17.7  
Horse Riding 16.6 Approx. 2.5 million riders in the UK but only accounts for 2% of all sports injuries
Weight Training 11.9  
Table Tennis 7.9  
Golf 4.8  
Volleyball 3.7 Figures from USA
Alpine Skiing 2.6  
Caving 1.53 Includes injuries and fatalities - average for last five years. 40% of these injuries are to non
Diving 0.4 Figures from USA - Injuries requiring treatment in casualty.
Parachuting 0.0027 This only includes fatalities, not injuries of which there are probably very few.
Mountaineering - 8 fatalities in England and Wales in 1992
Fishing - 6 fatalities per year - often from those fishing near power lines.

Okay, so you choose a nice safe sport like caving or parachuting, so now your safe right? WRONG!

Those guys and gals with the clipboards have been to work as well, so how does your job rate?

Fishing (trawling etc.) 24 1 in 917
Mining/Solid fuel manufacture 8 1 in 7,125
Agriculture 21 1 in 11,905
Construction 69 1 in 12,464
Transport/Communication 41 1 in 30,732
All manufacturing industry 6 1 in 36,000
Banking, finance, insurance 9 1 in 288,889

At this point some of you may be screaming 'EEK!' and have locked yourself in the house with the postman your only contact with the outside world (when he's not on strike!). But as per usual statistics can prove that this again is a dangerous place to be standing still in.

Every year 4,000 people die from accidents in their homes. The media's favourites at the moment being mobile phones, the Pill and baby powder with even plastic watches being linked to Alzheimer's disease. Due to the media our perception of 'risk' is severely distorted from the truth. In the past few years many local authorities have removed asbestos from council houses due to public pressure but in so doing have exposed hundreds of employees to very high levels of the material. The end result may be that more people will die from removing the stuff than would have done if it were left safely sealed in it's original location.

Some connections are not so obvious. At present parent's fear that their child will be kidnapped, raped or murdered is at an all time high although statistically the risk is at an all time low. This fear may lead to a large increase in heart disease. As more children are forced to sit at home, do little exercise and eat too much there increased risk of dying from heart disease becomes much greater than the risk they are avoiding in the first place. Recently many women stopped taking the Pill over it's links with thrombosis. This has lead to a large increase in unwanted pregnancies, births and abortions, all of which carry a far higher risk of injury of death.

The statistics time after time prove that our perception of media related risks puts us in far greater danger of death of injury than if we totally ignored them. So next time someone says, 'Caving, you go caving? That's too dangerous for me' you can put them right in the knowledge that you are in fact in a low risk sport!

(PS - You are more likely to need hospital treatment from injury from the sink or toilet than caving!)