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article imageTrendy But Treacherous: High Injury Risks From New Recreation Sports

By Hanke Huber     Mar 31, 2001 in Lifestyle
MUENSTER, Germany (dpa) - The sports season is approaching in northern climes and fair weather riders can hardly wait to pull on their in- line skates, hop on their city scooters and jump on their mountain bikes.

But sports medics warn that this is the most dangerous time of year. Eager sportsmen forget their bodies are not yet in shape after the sleepy winter months, and neglect the proper safety measures.

In-line skating carries one of the highest risks of injury, because beginners are often over-confident and travel too fast, said Albert Fromme, of Muenster University's Institute of Sports Medicine.

"A lot of people think they will just be able to grab on to something somewhere to stop." But you cannot always find a useful street sign or street lamp when you need it.

Fromme advises enthusiasts to learn how to brake, and how to fall correctly before setting off at speed. He says protective clothing is also essential. "Arm injuries are the most common, when people attempt to support themselves when falling." That is why wrist and elbow pads, as well as knee pads and helmets, should always be worn.

If you follow these safety rules, skating offers a safer alternative to jogging because it is gentler on the joints. It trains heart and circulation, and helps improve coordination and strength.

Protective clothing is also a "must" for mountain bikers. "Most injuries are caused by falls, usually to the head and arms," said Cornelia Schlueter, a medic at the AOK medical health insurance agency in Hamburg, Germany. The organisation believes nearly half of all head injuries could be prevented by wearing helmets.

Downhill riding is the most dangerous aspect of mountain biking, for which riders need plenty of strength and staying power. Mountain bikers should take special fitness programmes to train their muscles and condition themselves before taking to the hills and valleys, experts say. Beginners should start slowly and practice braking and steering techniques before racing up a mountain.

Canyoning offers an exciting combination of abseiling, climbing, swimming and the thrill of wild nature. "Some knowledge of these sports is helpful" when starting canyoning, advised Werner Baumgarten, chairman of the German Canyoning Association in Munich. But even beginners on fairly gentle courses should bring a certain level of fitness, he said.

Be it canyoning, biking or rafting, the same ground rule applies: the fitter you are, the less likely you are to be injured. "People who do not do much sports should begin training in winter," advises Cornelia Schlueter. Ski gymnastics, aerobics or fitness courses offered by fitness studios will strengthen the muscles and stretch ligaments.

And once you start your trend-sport, you should always know your limitations. "If you take up mountain-biking, do not start on the highest mountain," said Schlueter. Practice in a nearby forest and gradually work you way up to the more difficult routes, she said.
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