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Calculated Risk of Sports Fatalities

Kenneth S. Clarke, PhD
JAMA. 1966;197(11):894-896. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110110118027.
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A sports fatality is news with impact across the nation. As school administrators and physicians attest, news of each fatality perpetuates a prevailing anxiety among educators and parents: Are our youth accepting undue risks by going out for sports?

Charged as it is with emotion, this question of calculated risk receives treatment more expeditious than judicious. Critics and enthusiasts alike tend to limit their calculated-risk rationale to fatalities, to overestimate the utility of a fatality report as a sports-risk figure, and thus to overinterpret the same data to support their respective positions. This basis for decisiveness contributes neither to an understanding of undue risk nor to quiet evaluation of the fatalities that occur.

Calculated Risk.—  Calculated risk is an assessment of the hazards in the sports being offered relative to the sports' purported benefits. Subsequent conclusions underly decisions affecting the participation of typical and atypical candidates. However, we do not


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