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Policy Corner: Can Sports Safety Kill Thrills?

Could efforts to control the dangers of motorsports act perversely to dampen interest? If so, what does that say about human nature? Does bloodlust trump the desire for fair and safe competition?

A provocative cover article in USA Today noted that, ten years after the death of NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt, changes called for by ACSM have contributed to a much safer series – no fatalities in the ensuing decade. That’s a favorable outcome by any reasonable measure. Improved head and neck restraints and other safety measures protected drivers amid a crash-strewn Daytona 500 Feb. 19. No lack of action; no loss of life or limb. Where’s the downside?

Some allege safety comes at the cost of thrills. Absent a sufficient level of danger, they contend, fans are less likely to attend or tune in. Statistics may support that argument: NASCAR attendance and TV ratings are down significantly compared to a peak in 2005, according to USA Today.

Whether the venue is asphalt or Astroturf, ACSM will continue to support the health and safety of athletes. True competition pits individuals or teams against one another, against records and against conditions. Our goal should be to enhance competition while reducing the dangers inherent in any activity. more

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