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Recently, the press went all atwitter about a report listing the top outdoor recreation injuries released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Surprisingly, hiking came in third with 5 percent of reported injuries, right behind snowboarding (26 percent) and sledding and ahead of mountain biking (!) and “riding personal watercraft.”
But don’t chuck your hiking boots and save up for a Jet Ski just yet. The Numbers Guy at the Wall Street Journal pokes a few holes in these figures: For starters, skiing and surfing weren’t included as individual sports; if they had, skiing would rank second with 22 percent of injuries reported, and surfing would rank fourth with 8 percent, pushing hiking all the way down to fifth place. Instead, these sports were included in the “other” category, which accounted for a whopping 40 percent of reported outdoor injuries.
But the CDC study is riddled with other limitations. The sample of hospitals surveyed may cut across a broad spectrum, but omits some hospitals where certain sport-specific injuries are concentrated (most surfing and skiing injuries are treated in just a few specific facilities nationwide). No hospitals from the outdoor-centric states of Maine and Washington were surveyed, and the study doesn’t account for frequency of the activity or severity of the injury: Hiking may report perhaps tens of thousands of sprained ankles a year for every millions of hikers, but how does that compare with multiple fatalities in a less widely practiced sport — cliff jumping, for instance?
Be careful out there, but don’t believe the hype: Lace up your boots and hike on.
— Ted Alvarez