Social Question

Smashley's avatar

Should athletes risk injury for our entertainment?

Asked by Smashley (10237points) July 28th, 2021

Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from at least part of the Olympics has drawn obvious comparisons to Keri Strugg, who pushed herself beyond injury to help the US win a gold medal in gymnastics, and was celebrated for years.

Some criticize Biles for not putting her health on the line in the same way. Is this fair? Why do we sometimes pretend we want athletes to be role models for children, and other times ask them to do grotesque things to themselves for our pleasure? Why does extra willingness to harm one’s self equal greater glory?

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40 Answers

kritiper's avatar

No. And it’s not just great glory, but fortune as well.

canidmajor's avatar

The athletes are commodities in the eyes of the ha doers, trainers, corporate sponsors, etc.

No, they shouldn’t, unless they want to.

Mimishu1995's avatar

There is always a charm in stories about people who push against all odds to achieve their goals. People like to think of that as a good thing to do and expected.

Unfortunately that is not reality, and people don’t like to accept the reality that not everyone can, and should, push themselves to the extreme to be a hero.

gondwanalon's avatar

All sports have their injuries. Professional and Olympic athletes get the big bucks and or the big glory and risk the most. It’s their body and their choice.

It’s OK with me if they choose to risk their health for personal gain.

canidmajor's avatar

Geez, typo. Meant to be “handlers”.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I stand behind Briles’ decision.

Having said that, athletes chance great injury all the time.

tinyfaery's avatar

Kerry Strugg did not push herself she was bullied and abused by the Kerolyis and after all the praise she was put in the arms of another abuser, Larry Nassar.

I think there are ugly truths we will never know behind these “hero” stories.

Simone can only do what’s right for her. No one can know what is really going on in her head and all we can do is respect her choice.

ragingloli's avatar

There is always risk of injury. How they evaluate and choose or not choose to take the risk, should be completely up to them, and they should not be ridiculed for choosing not to take a risk.
Especially not by jeering onlookers shouting “you pussy” from the sidelines, who would break all their brittle bones just thinking about all the acrobatics that athlete can do.

ragingloli's avatar

Also, she decided to pull out due to mental health issues, and, by her own words, her concern was costing her team the win by messing up her performance.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@ragingloli Video not available in my country. It’s our Olympian, so that’s odd.

I read she’s worth $10 million now, so I’m glad she’s putting her health first. I’m as competitive as the next person, maybe more so in some ways, but it’s definately not worth risking permanent injury to me personally. She’s only 24 years old with a whole life ahead of her.

Nomore_lockout's avatar

It’s a risk that, I would assume, they feel is worth taking. In the same sense that a race car driver, animal handler, or astronaut takes a calculated risk in doing what they like doing. Look at what happened to the Crocodile Hunter guy. Killed by a stingray. He died doing what he loved doing, and he knew the risks he was taking in his profession. I feel athletes are in the same category.

filmfann's avatar

She made the right decision. If your mind isn’t right, these manuveurs can be crippling.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The commentators said that during a vault she “lost her place in the air.”
When my daughter was in gymnastics they had an exercise they did. They put their foreheads on a the hand end of a baseball bat then they’d spin around and around. It was to help combat the dizziness that they’d naturally feel after doing 5 aerials in a row. Jen used to do aerials on the balance beam.

Zaku's avatar

“Should” in what sense?

If they want to make millions of dollars on Wheaties sponsorship and/or insane sports star salaries, yes, they should.

If they want to not get seriously hurt, no.

From some more balanced perspectives, maybe they should do their best to avoid injury while still doing the sport they choose.

When relationships between athletes and the sports establishment start to be abusive, well, from an overall social and mental health perspective for our society, no, those relationships should ideally get some attention from wise people who understand psychology and have the well-being of the athletes at heart.

RocketGuy's avatar

@ragingloli – and he landed wrong in WATER!

Inspired_2write's avatar

No ,because they may end up with a permanent injury or death is possible.

Dutchess_III's avatar

They aren’t doing it for our entertainment. They do it because it’s what they were built to do. They love it.

AlaskaTundrea's avatar

I just read a former competitor’s description of the “twisties”, which is how Boles described what happened during her just previous effort. It sounds like it isn’t something that can’t be just shaken off but might even require awhile to retrain again. I didn’t bookmark it so can’t refer back, but she said given the level of danger to many of Biles’ tricks, it would be like driving down a busy road and suddenly forgetting how to drive, especially a stick shift, brake, or even use the gas pedal. Biles owes us nothing and I’m glad she decided not to push herself when it would have been dangerous. She’s hopefully helping set a new example for young athletes who are pushed to keep going, keep doing harder, more dangerous tricks, keep smiling and dealing with the smothering media attention, but reminding us all that it’s okay to say, “No, not this time”.

JLeslie's avatar

I feel bad for the gymnast who didn’t get to go to the Olympics.

If Simone feels she can’t focus then she should not risk the injury. Could she have done a simpler routine? I don’t know all of the details.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The Olympics are not about “simpler routines.”

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Plenty of the athletes do simpler routines. Is someone taking her spot?

KRD's avatar

The Olympics have safe stuff to protect the athletes.

canidmajor's avatar

^^^. “Safe stuff”? Geez. Athletes get hurt all the time at the Olympics.

Do tell, @KRD, what “stuff” is safer now than when Strug competed?

canidmajor's avatar

From this article in the NYT

Maggie Astor
By Maggie Astor
July 28, 2021
Before Elena Mukhina broke her neck doing the Thomas salto, a skill so dangerous it is now banned, she told her coach she was going to break her neck doing the Thomas salto.

But her coach responded dismissively that people like her did not break their necks, and Mukhina, a 20-year-old Soviet gymnast, didn’t feel she could refuse. Besides, she recalled later in an interview with the Russian magazine Ogoniok, she knew what the public expected of her as the anointed star of the coming Olympic Games.

“I really wanted to justify the trust put in me and be a heroine,” she said.

Less than a month before the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, Mukhina under-rotated the Thomas salto and landed on her chin. She was permanently paralyzed and died in 2006, at the age of 46, from complications of quadriplegia. After her injury, she told Ogoniok, fans wrote to her asking when she would compete again.

“The fans had been trained to believe in athletes’ heroism — athletes with fractures return to the soccer field and those with concussions return to the ice rink,” she said. “Why?”

The history of women’s gymnastics is strewn with the bodies of athletes like Mukhina, who sustained life-altering or life-ending injuries after being pressured to attempt skills they knew they couldn’t do safely or to compete when they didn’t feel up to it. On Tuesday, withdrawing from the Olympic team final after losing her bearings in the middle of a vault and barely landing on her feet, Simone Biles effectively said that she refused to be one more.

Biles did not mention Mukhina. Nor did she mention Julissa Gomez, the 15-year-old American gymnast who was paralyzed shortly before the 1988 Olympics — and died three years later — as a result of a vault that she had never been able to perform reliably, but that her coaches had told her she had to do if she wanted to be competitive. Biles did not have to mention Mukhina or Gomez. Their stories are infamous in the gymnastics world.“

JLoon's avatar

Most of what anyone can say about this question has already been said – here and in the larger public.

Anyone participating in a sport risks some kind of injury, and in most cases it’s accepted even by amatuers because of the personal reward that comes from overcoming weakness & inexperience. Whenever that happens you gain in skill and confidence. But it’s a different world for elite athelets pushing the limits of the human body in high level competitions like the Olympics, or professional championships.

I attended college on a basketball scholarship but had to leave the team in my second year when I fractured an ankle during a game that put us in regional finals. There was nothing else on the line but pride, but any chance I ever had of moving my play to a higher level was over in one night.

Would I do it again? I don’t know. Did Biles make the right dicision for herself? Yeah, I think so. Was it good for her team? Ask them when the games are over.

KRD's avatar

There is a medical team to help anyone who gets injured.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I had a guy on Facebook compare Simone Briles “twisties” with tennis. HE would never give up!
I responded with “A bad day in tennis probably won’t kill you.a bad day in gymnastics can.”
My cousin (on Rick’s side) replied to me and said “I love you and Simone Briles!”
My cousin had her leg amputated at the knee a few years ago, after a gymnastics accident decades ago continued to plague her for 2 decades.
She shared her ordeal on Facebook, starting with the amputation.
Then she got a prosthesis. She said so many people hassled her about parking in Handicap.
My favorite story is that one guy was SO obnoxious she too her leg off and shook it at him. I LOLd.
Further more…she still does gymnastics!
Stick that in your tennis ball ya jerk.

canidmajor's avatar

@KRD please read what I posted above about Elena Mukhina. A “medical team” can only do so much after a crippling injury has happened.

KRD's avatar

@canidmajor I mean that the medical team can help a lot on things but not everything.

AlaskaTundrea's avatar

I’m out of free reads so can’t just open and share a bookmark, but Time dot come shared a post on Facebook about what the twisties are that are plaguing Biles’ performance right now. Saw a short video clip of her trying to do a dismount from the bars at the Olympic training facility and she missed the landing and fell. Don’t know how long she’d been trying or how many turns/flips she might have done before the camera rolled, or how many falls might have been involved, but it looked like the end of a relatively simple, at least for her, routine. Later heard she’d withdrawn from that individual competition. Her teammates obviously “get” what she is dealing with and are supportive. Let’s face it, they’ve all probably been there at one point or the other.

Dutchess_III's avatar

When a gymnast is 8 feet in the air flipping and twisting she has to keep spatial track of where she is. She has to know up from down, left to right, front to back. She needs to know exactly where she is.
Simone “lost her place in the air.” Bad news.
This article summed it up nicely.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The very first clip, of a foot race, in this Monty Pytnon clip is probably a good visual of where Simone’s brain went off to. Scary AF.

Smashley's avatar

Thank you everyone for the thought you’ve put in to your answers. I find myself waffling a bit on this issue. Not that I think it was wrong for Biles to withdraw, but I find it hard to extract much right and wrong from the already problematic intersections of sport, celebrity and childhood. I don’t think you can argue against Strug’s decision (however much agency she really had) to go for the vault, unless you start at the beginning, and argue against her beginning to train for the career from a very early age. Despite the injury, she succeeded. Had she decided not to vault, no one would be talking about her, she never would have won an ESPY or got that Wheaties money, or been a trivial pursuit answer, or be in any way a part of the conversation in 2021. Sure, she could have missed the jump and become known for a catastrophic injury, but that risk and uncertainty in always a part of professional sport.

Professional level sport is always a deal with the devil. Incentives all focus around performance and results and pushing through whatever is holding you back to turn it on when the lights are up. Seems to me like Biles already had a career’s worth of risk taking, success and wealth, and didn’t feel the need to risk her health for more. Strug did not have the success and wealth yet. She had an opportunity, took a risk and succeeded beyond anyone’s imagination. I really don’t see what’s wrong with that, unless you just have a problem with the constant injury to children that we demand from all our favorite sports.

canidmajor's avatar

@Smashley, Rachael Denhollander has an interesting take, from the inside, on Strug and the culture of women’s gymnastics in general, in this Atlantic article.

tinyfaery's avatar

Great article.

Smashley's avatar

@canidmajor – Thanks. I like the perspective that Biles’ decision is a culture shift towards athletes making better health decisions, but I think they mostly breezed by the imperative in sport to risk your health, no matter your age, and that Biles had successfully risked her health for years and had already achieved the glory that comes from that risk, and just didn’t feel the need to risk it further. The article was critical of USA gymnastics for its particular culture but really didn’t have much to say about how problematic child professionalism is across all sport.

As long as we engage children in professional level training, they are always at some risk which they can only vaguely consent to.

canidmajor's avatar

Please remember that the article was primarily an interview, with the unique and focused perspective that that entails.

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