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I recently read your article from www.post-gazette.com.
I thought it was very well written and made some clear points. However, I believe those points are very misinformed and written more from the heart of someone who only sees the tragedy instead of someone taking a more objective look.
I am an avid dirtbike enthusiasts. I race and participate regularly in my sport. I have a great love for the comraderie, competition and responsibility that this sport fosters.
The kids I know in this sport are good students, listen and behave. They are responsible and most importantly they understand that there are repurcussions for what they do in life, not just on the track. Granted there are the kids who have no quality supervision who can give our sport (and any sport) a bad image but overall the quality in the participants of this sport are very impressive individuals.
If you would be willing to read, I would like to respond to a few points you made in your article at http://www.post-gazette.com/healths...6hdirtbike4.asp
You wrote: "Surely such a risky sport must be regulated. What I discovered was the opposite."
What I'd like to ask is why should any sport be regulated? In my opinion the act of regulation, especially on the federal level does little except give unresponsible parents recourse for their mistakes. I know that sounds harsh but there are a lot of frivalous lawsuits out there by the unresponsible and lazy.
While the sport of dirtbike riding is dangerous it is not something that needs to be regulated any more than baseball or basketball does. Every race promoter REQUIRES parental supervision and safety gear. The requirements for safety are more than you will find in any traditional stick and ball sport taught during Physical Education classes across the nation.
Our enthusiasts make a point to clearly illustrate the dangers involved in the sport and while some do get injured there are countless number of enthusiasts who gain great value from this sport. It teaches them responsibility, understanding for the repurcussions of mistakes and helps them maintain great physical conditioning.
I am not going to tell you that there are no injuries or that the injuries that do occur are minor. I do believe though that limiting the age of many of our racers would limit the teachings this sport has to offer. Look into James "Bubba" Stewart or Mike Alessi or many of the other kids who are under 18 who have done incredible things. Look at often injured Travis Pastrana who had a spinal injury but continues to race and do dangerous tricks while at the same time he graduated high school early (with a 4.0 gpa) and is taking online courses through the University of Maryland (where his gpa is above 3.5) and is one of the great ambassadors of our sport. He often speaks of how important his family is, education is and how risky the sport can be. The injuries are a small part of what these riders are about... their commitment to training, winning and being a better person are a much larger image that is portrayed and received by those that look up to them.
I'd also like to comment on another item you wrote: "Football is a less inherently dangerous sport, but we know far more about safety and injury prevention on the playing field than on the race track."
Football has more broken ankles, broken collarbones and broken everything than the sport of motocross. When an accident happens in racing it is often severe but there are more broken bones on the field of football than the track. I believe once you call for more studies your studies, if done objectively will prove that fact.
I have played basketball in high school and ran track. I have ridden dirtbikes since that age. I have more twisted ankles from basketball than scrapes from dirtbikes. I was able to avoid a lot of injuries from riding because of my mother who forced me to wear protective gear while riding becuase she knew it was her responsibility to protect me.
You also wrote: "A Dirt bikes and their riders should be licensed, and riders should be required to wear helmets and eye protection. A minimum age for operation of all off-road motorized vehicles should be set."
With the exception of the license those things are already being done. Also, at the top level you have to be a certain age (16) before you can get a professional license. Much of what you want is already in place by the organizers and participants of the sport because they care about the participants and the sport.
You need to see these racers perform. You need to see the agility, the balance and the awesome physical talent they have (not to mention the smile on their face when they come off the track). The racers are amazing and they perform with a love you rarely find in any other sport and a dedication to being the best that you will be hard pressed to find in any other sport.
If you limit the age of the participants you only take these individuals and put them in another sport where they will break a collarbone making a tackle or an ankle trying to take a charge. They chose the sport of dirtbikes because they have a love for it. Injury is part of it and all participants understand that.
Finally I want to respond to one last comment you wrote: "...we can educate young patients and their parents about the dangers of dirt bikes. We can teach them that these vehicles are dangerous and powerful machines, not children's toys."
I hope that you allow the activists in this sport to educate you on its greatness. I hope you look at things objectively and not just from the risk standpoint. It is a dangerous sport but one with more precautions on the track than any other sport you will see.
The only thing we need now is less hysteria. Please contact the AMA or the Coombs family from Racer X for more information. The Coombs family put on one of the largest amateur races every year and they know the risk and the reward better than anyone when it comes to the younger participants. I urge you go to the Amateur Championships next year and look at the sport. I believe you will walk away with a better understanding of our sport and why we take the risk.
Yes there are injuries. Yes it is part of the sport. But we are all working on trying to limit those risks and reduce the injuries because we value the sport more than a federal government will. We value the safety of the children who we get to know, trust and respect more than some faceless agency will. We touch the lives of our fellow enthusiasts more than the ink on some piece of paper ever will.
Try as you might but all your attempts will bring is an empty federal mandate that limits more than it provides. If successful you will take away the interaction and teaching the adults in this sport can hand down. You will also limit the teachings and experience this sport provides. Teaching and experiences that have made me (and so many others) quality members of society who give more than they ever ask in return.
Ivan Liechty, M.A.