IMG_4067As a parent, I know that at first blush the idea of fencing can sound dangerous.  Putting my child in a sport where the objective is to stab each other with a sword?!  But fencing is actually one of the safest sports you can bring your kids into – plus your child will reap long-lasting benefits.  These benefits go beyond the fundamentals of the sport – staying with your child throughout their lives, helping them to grow into the confident, strong person that he or she is capable of.

I really want to show parents who aren’t familiar with fencing just how safe it is – so when I saw this graph, I was immediately struck by what a powerful tool it was to illustrate the safety aspect of fencing in comparison to other sports.

Olympic sports injuries statistics (Source: Lars Engebretsen, University of Oslo)

Olympic sports injuries statistics (Source: Lars Engebretsen, University of Oslo)

Did you know that 1 in 10 Olympians is often injured during the games?  We don’t always see those injuries on television, they get edited out or occur during practices – but they still occur.  The 6 sports in the 2008 Summer Olympics that resulted in the fewest injuries are sailing, canoeing, synchronized swimming, diving, rowing, and fencing.  Yes, you read that right, fencing!  Ironic since the “goal” in fencing is to score a “hit” on your opponent with a sword.  But fencing ranked a mere 2.5% injury rate — only slightly higher than diving and synchronized swimming.  It just goes to show that with proper gear and good common sense, fencing is no more dangerous than table tennis!

Indeed, most blows are nothing more than a tap – yet even a vigorous blow (which is not all that common) will be absorbed by the flexibility of the blade.  Contrary to what Hollywood movies have depicted, in modern fencing the blade of the sword is not sharp.  The tip is flat, not pointed and protected by a rubber cushion or metal button on electric weapons.  Additionally, each part of the body is covered by several layers of protective fencing clothing made from puncture-proof material such as Kevlar (used in bullet proof vests).  Masks protect the head and neck and are constructed with sturdy meshed steel designed to withstand impact.

According to the NationalCenter for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, University of North Carolina, there have been approximately 1,689 fatalities from football injuries in the US between 1931 and 2007.  9 of those occurred 2007.  By comparison, there were only 7 fatalities in fencing in similar period worldwide — and no fatalities in the US.

All those fatalities occurred among world class fencers and resulted in an intensive review and redesign of the protective equipment.  Likewise, fencers have fewer and less serious injuries than other non-contact sports such as baseball and softball.

Most common fencing injuries result from bruising, twisted ankles, sprains, or strained muscles.  All of these are easily treatable and preventable if students practice precautionary measures and make sure to properly warm up, cool down, and stay hydrated.

So as you can see, fencing is a sport that has little risk of serious injury while offering important benefits that will help your child grow with confidence, discipline, quick-thinking and respect.  (See our other post about the benefits of fencing)

By the way, the highest number of injuries (32%) resulting from the 2008 Summer Olympics?  Soccer – one of the most popular kid activities in America.