Extreme sports for young people

"With us you will find everything for your life's dream! Are you ready for the great adventure?" Extreme sports providers advertise in their catalogues and websites. Increasingly young people want to try out these offers. Perhaps they are even addicted to the "boundless experiences "that are promised, for example, together with canyoning.

Here the participants follow the runs of extreme white water streams through gorges and over waterfalls with the white water canoe. Other adrenaline junkies prefer sky surfing. You drop out of the helicopter with a snowboard on your feet and a parachute backpack.

Another extreme is the excessive strain during sport. So not only running a marathon, but also after 50 kilometres can't stop. Or a two-day hike in one day. A strenuous and thrilling sport is free climbing, in which you can overcome extreme slopes, steep walls and rock masses with a safety rope but with no other aids.

What drives young people to turn sport into extreme sports? How do you deal with it if your own child is involved in such "sports"? What can you, as a physical education teacher or group leader, recommend to your students? What are the healing effects of sport?

Many people doing sports, jogging or even touring cyclists tell of a when it makes "clicks" and they feel inspired despite the effort. At this moment - according to the theory - more hormones such as the body's own opiate endorphin and the so-called stress hormones adrenaline and norepinephrine are released. The concentration of serotonin, another emotional hormone, also increases with physical exertion. This creates an intoxicating high spirits. Those who often do endurance sports become addicted to this hormone cocktail.

But the situation is similar but more extreme for high-risk sports. The moment you stand on the bridge and want to get into the abyss secured with a rope, even experienced bungee jumpers are afraid. But as you plunge into the depths, the body is flooded with feelings of happiness. They stop all day long. Bungee jumpers describe it as a high feeling as if you're on drugs. The intoxication of risk. After the jump there is total relaxation. "The feeling of happiness together with relaxation builds you up and makes you strong for everything else", say athletes. Another motivation is the proud feeling of having done something special. This strengthens self-esteem.

They cannot always discourage children from testing themselves in dangerous situations. Young people find themselves in the period of departure when they have to learn about their limits. During this time, they also need a sense of achievement for their not yet pronounced self-confidence. Often a certain group pressure is added, which one does not want to avoid.

But you can try to reduce the risk. To do this, you need to talk to your children. As a first rule of thumb in such conversations, we tell you to take the young people's needs for these "adrenaline kicks". The fascination that emanates from it is so strong that health and life are put at risk. But try to motivate your children to attend preparatory courses and proper instruction. No driver will be admitted to the Formula 1 racetrack without training just because he has a driving licence. For example, a training or instruction course is also important for hang-gliding or free climbing. In inline skating, you should use all your influence to make sure that children wear protectors and helmets and take a course in which they practice braking and falling.

In principle, both borderline experiences and sport are important for the development of adolescents. Sport promotes physical development and mental well-being. It prevents chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Or, as the well-known Cologne immunologist Professor Gerd Uhlenbruck says: "Sport is murder - of many diseases! In addition, sportsmen and women feel more at home in their bodies and in harmony with their figure.

Copyright: Landeszentrale fuer Gesundheitsfoerderung in Rheinland-Pfalz e.V. (LZG) Germany

Text: Dr. Beatrice Wagner, Editor: Birgit Kahl