Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Adrenaline Junkies

I overshoot the jump and drop about fifteen feet. I smack my head on the ground and bruise my back the entire length of my spine. I pull off the track in pain and rest for about five minutes and fire up the bike again. “Where you going?” my friend asks. “To do it again” The adrenaline rush of doing a sixty foot jump or going down the face of a mountain with a board strapped to your feet is something that can not be described, it can only be experienced. This is a craze that spans sky diving to bungee jumping to racing. Much of it is not about winning or losing, it is about the thrill. Some may say that we are crazy for doing these things. Are you not tired of the countless trips to the emergency room, the broken bones, the aches and pains? Never. With the emergence of events like the X games, participation in extreme sports has increased dramatically and so has the increase in what some may call stupidity.

Like an addiction to drugs, there is an addiction to adrenaline. Researchers are beginning to find that these so called, “Adrenaline junkies,” may be causing the same harm as those that are hooked on drugs.Adrenaline is “a hormone secreted by the adrenal medulla upon stimulation by the central nervous system in response to stress, as anger or fear, and acting to increase heart rate, blood pressure, cardiac output, and carbohydrate metabolism.” It is coupled with an increase in heart rate, dilated pupils and the decision on what is called the flight of fight response. It suppresses pain and exhaustion. It allows us to do things that some can not see physically possible. Like lifting a car off someone to save their life, jump the motorcycle, or go down the mountain. Is this good or bad? Some researchers are beginning to think that this is not such a good thing. According to researchers, “adrenaline addiction is as real as drug or alcohol addiction, rewarding the body with exquisite pleasure and pain relief. But, as with any other addiction, the body builds tolerance to the chemical and needs larger, more frequent doses to achieve the desired effect” thus creating a tolerance to what the adrenaline seeker use to think as extreme. Like all thingsin life, the more you do them the better you get at them which leaves you looking for a new challenge, which is why two more feet are added to the jump or ten more feet of altitude may be added to a snowboard run and possibly an increase in danger of the person’s life.

This is that the hunt for adrenaline is beginning at a young age. The six-year-old on the dirt bike doing the same jumps as sixteen-year-old teenagers. Many of the youth in this category are breaking an outrageous number of bones and causing many insurance companies to raise rates or even refuse coverage. As for adults, “High-risk takers are easily bored and may suffer low job satisfaction. Their craving for stimulation can make them more likely to abuse drugs, gamble, commit crimes, and be promiscuous. As psychologist Salvadore Maddi, Ph.D., of the University of California-Davis warns, high-risk takers may "have a hard time deriving meaning and purpose from everyday life." This may lead to depression and suicide in some extreme cases.

In the sport of freestyle motocross, adrenaline junkies are very visible. Their high risk actions are becoming nationally televised like the recent televised footage of Mike Metzger’s back flip over the fountain at Cesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and Travis Pastrana’s double back flip. Many of these adrenaline seekers will go out to do something bigger and better. They want to raise the level of normalcy in their sport. As we speak someone right now is trying to top the double back flip. What will happen to these sports in the years to come? What will happen to those that want a bigger adrenaline rush when all the peaks have been explored? As w are seeing, there may be no limit to what can be accomplished. With the entrance of science and technology into sports, the possibilities may b endless.

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