Are jumping stilts – the newest extreme sports equipment – extremely dangerous? One look at these radical new kinds of stilts will give any parent a twinge of fear for their “baby,” that’s almost a given. “Not my kid!” can be a pretty typical parental reaction after seeing jumping stilts for the first time. Anything that has a person standing 18 inches taller on what look like very small “hooves” on the end of very long springs just can’t be safe, right? And any parent doing holiday present Google research to find out what Johnny meant by “jumping stilts!” on his yes-I-really-was-a-good-boy list will find those wacky YouTube videos of crazy young people flipping, flying, and bouncing through the urban landscape like crazed maniacs while wearing no helmets, pads, or even shirts!
So, seriously, who could believe that this wild new extreme sport is safe at all?
It turns out, oh nervous parent, that the extreme look of jumping stilts does not translate into extreme danger. Yes, you may breathe a sigh of relief now… whew…
Here’s why: The inventor, German aerospace engineer Alexander Boeck, thought long and hard about the design of these crazy-looking stilts, and he engineered them so that when you’re strapped into them and standing tall, the stilt hooves are directly below your natural center of gravity. That turns out to be much better than even those silly regular stilts we all tried out as kids which made you feel wobbly because your center of gravity was to the inside of the stilt, which made it awkward to walk on. Most people who try jumping stilts find that surprisingly quickly they feel very comfortable and balanced on their stilts.
But, says the worried parent, what about the fact that my child can now go bouncing off down the road anywhere and since he or she can now jump up to six feet high – well, that’s a long way to fall?
Fair point, dear parent, and this is why every expert in the sport says “wear your safety gear, no exceptions!” and “never try tricks on stilts that you haven’t tried in a gym!” In fact, most bockers (what jumping stilts users call themselves in honor of the inventor) will tell you is that their safety gear – a helmet, as well as wrist, elbow and knee guards – has saved them from scrapes and bruises more than once, and they wouldn’t go bocking without them. They also know to learn their tricks without stilts first – on a trampoline or on a gymnastics spring floor – and even then, to use mats when they first try those same new tricks on stilts.
Think back about 25 years, do you remember how insane snowboarding seemed? Do you notice how normal it appears to be now? Hmm… could it just be that new sports always seem more dangerous just because they are new?
Do injuries happen to bockers? Honestly, yes, and usually, it’s because they were pushing their limits (and knew it) or didn’t put on their safety gear. Gravity will always win if you try to cheat. The bottom line is that – just as in any extreme sport – the equipment itself is no more dangerous than a baby bunny rabbit. It’s how you use the equipment that determines the level of danger and potential injury, and with proper protective equipment and by following some common sense rules, Johnny will be safe as can be as he experiences the thrill of the world as a trampoline on his new bocks that he got as his holiday present this year.