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The Olympics' most dangerous sport?

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A random question in case it ever comes up in your local pub trivia night: what Olympic event is played at speeds in excess of 200km/h, features a piece of equipment weighing just five grams and is arguably considered to be the most dangerous sport at the London Olympics?

The answer is badminton, which has been responsible for numerous serious eye injuries over the years according to some of the tournament's players.

Team GB's number one player Rajiv Ouseph told the story this week of how one of his junior coaches had to be hospitalised for two weeks and almost lost his sight in one eye after being nailed from a smash playing shuttle in Indonesia.

This all raises the inconsequential question as to what other sports could be considered the most dangerous here in London?

It's incredibly hard to go past last week's cross country event in the equestrian when it comes to athletes requiring danger money for their pursuits. For those who haven't witnessed cross country, riders and their mounts tackle a brutal, undulating, six-kilometre course over 20-plus jumps, some involving large immovable objects and others involving carefully descending (or falling in some cases) down massive gullies where it's quite easy for the rider to be thrown over the front of their horse at terrifying speed.

Such is the attrition rate, when it comes to falls, that riders are now required to wear the same airbag-style vests that are now mandatory for MotoGP riders. The vests are state-of-the-art pieces of technology which inflate almost instantly once a rider falls to cushion the blow and reduce the internal and external damage caused.

The likes of boxing and mountain biking also contain a fair level of danger, while weightlifting has produced some of the most graphic and gruesome dislocations and breakages over the years. But without being blasé about these unforgiving sports, these injuries generally aren't as permanent or comparable to losing an eye really, are they?, a website specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of sports injuries, doesn't list eye injuries on its list of top five badminton ailments, a list which predominantly includes leg and arm injuries. One researcher (Chandra) conducted a study into ocular injuries in badminton back in 1974. These findings were based on over 60 cases of eye injuries from the sport in Malaysia with 86% related to being hit by the shuttle, while alarmingly, the other 14% were attributed to players being hit by a racquet. This raises the further worrying question of how many were hit with their own racquet and how many by their partner, or worse still an opposing player, considering the sport is played in such close quarters across the net.

For the record, the badminton Olympics tournament wrapped up in London a couple of days ago. Thankfully the Australian contingent of five athletes made it through the tournament unscathed from all reports.

So, anyone for a spot of badminton this weekend?


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