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Open Water Ranking Among The World’s Toughest Sports

Illustration by Petra Zeiler for Outside Magazine.

Dan Roe penned an interesting article in Outside Magazine called Ranking the World’s Toughest Outdoor Sports.

The article focused on a comparison of rock climbing, downhill mountain biking, Nordic skiing, ultra-running and open water swimming.

In order to complete the rankings of the world’s toughest outdoor sports, including open water swimming, Roe studied peer-reviewed research and compared the average number of injuries per 1,000 hours of an athlete’s activity, fatality rates, and other data in addition to consulting with professionals in each sport.

Roe interviewed Elizabeth Fry, who completed the first Reverse Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming in history, as the resident open water swimming professional.

Roe referred to the following data in his article and we wondered how he obtained the injury and facility rates for open water swimmers and noted that the rates were much higher than our own data. However, it may be that the open water swimming data includes injuries and fatalities that occur in the swim legs of sanctioned triathlons.

*Rock Climbing: injuries are 0.56 per 1,000 hours, fatalities are 145 per 1 million climbers
*Downhill Mountain Biking: injuries are 43 per 1,000 hours, fatalities are 11.2 per 1 million mountain bikers
*Nordic Skiing: injuries are 30 per 1,000 skiing hours, fatalities are 11 per 1 million Nordic skiers
*Open Water Swimming: injuries are 4 per 1,000 hours, fatalities are 9.1 per 1 million open water swimmers
*Ultrarunning: Injuries are 7.2 per 1,000 hours, fatalities are 2.5 per 1 million ultrarunners

The article, including fascinating quotes from Fry, is posted here.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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