How much risk can you handle: On sharks and skiing.

By Wendy Clinch •  Updated: 07/07/15 •  3 min read

Growing up on the Jersey Shore, I was totally freaked out by the movie Jaws. So I did what any self-respecting coward would do: I didn’t see it until I moved away. I loved swimming in the ocean, and I was afraid the Great White in the movie would scare me enough to keep me out of the water.

I know, it’s a movie, with very little science to back it up. But still, fear is very rarely rational.

This summer the people in North Carolina are going through their own version of Jaws. They’ve had  eight shark attacks since June 11. And as frightening as this sounds, it’s still very, very rare. According to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, our chances of being attacked by a shark are just one in 11.5 million. You’re more likely to be killed by a dog or a snake, or even in a car collision with a deer. You’re also 30 times more likely to be killed by lightning and three times more likely to drown.

All this made me think about risk, and how much we’re prepared to take on to do something we love.

Yes, there are accidents in sports. And yes, it is possible to lose your life — which is also something you risk every time you get in your car. The best you can do is make sure to take the proper safety precautions. For skiing, that means wearing a helmet, keeping your bindings and equipment adjusted properly and in good working order, being aware of your surroundings, skiing in control, and skiing in terrain appropriate to your ability.

I recently came upon a chart that compares fatality rates in a number of sports, and I thought it was interesting enough to post it here (it’s from Bandolier, an evidence-based journal on health care from the UK). Granted, some of the data is old, but still, worth looking at.

Sports risk

Skiing is pretty far down on the list.

From the same source, here’s another chart that compares fatalities in a number of sports with everyday activities.



Again, skiing is waaaaay down there.

Eye opening, isn’t it?

The bottom line is this: you can live your life wrapped in cotton and never do anything at all, or you can get out there, have fun, and do what you can to keep yourself safe.

Oh, and if you’re worried about sharks, here’s some recommended reading from the NY Times: Should swimmers worry about sharks?


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