As Quidditch grows, concerns about Quidditch wounds increase: NPR



Quidditch is a fast-paced combination of dodgeball, rugby and basketball. Above, John Sheridan attempts to score points by throwing a pitcher jug ​​through the hoop of the other team.

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Quidditch is a fast-paced combination of dodgeball, rugby and basketball. Above, John Sheridan attempts to score points by throwing a pitcher jug ​​through the hoop of the other team.

Noah Fortson / NPR

It happened in a split second and Vanessa Barker does not remember it anymore. She does not remember going to the field or how she was touched.

When she came to her, she was sitting on the sidelines with a MST, being assessed for what turned out to be her first concussion. Over the next two years, she would still suffer twice in the field – which she was not expecting when she decided to start playing Quidditch.

Before 2005, Quidditch only existed in the imaginary universe of Harry Potter – a hobby for wizards and wizards on flying brooms. But seduced by the charm of the game, students at Middlebury College in Vermont organized the first real-life quidditch match, a combination of dodgeball, rugby and basketball fast, mixed and in intense contact.

Vanessa Barker of the University of Maryland suffered three concussions while she was playing Quidditch.

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Vanessa Barker of the University of Maryland suffered three concussions while she was playing Quidditch.

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Nearly fifteen years later, the number of participants has increased dramatically, with teams developing in communities and university campuses across the country. The sport has its own governing body, American Quidditch, with 134 teams already registered this season and another five to ten teams added each year.

But as teams gather in Texas this weekend for the US Quidditch Cup Championship, players, coaches and officials are increasingly interested in risk reduction in a match where the risk of injury is becoming more apparent. Many have realized that it's not only scratches and bruises, but also fractures, and that for players like Vanessa Barker, you have to repeat the concussions.

"If I have others, I will have to stop playing," she said.

The rules of Quidditch

The Quidditch game in real life is similar to the fictional sport, without flying brooms. To compensate for this, players run with a piece of PVC pipe between their legs, sprinting up and down the field with up to five balls in play at a time.

There are seven players in a team. Three "chasers" try to score a volleyball with hoops on both sides of the pitch, each set being defended by the "keeper" of the opposing team.

Just like for the quidditch rules of the Harry Potter series, in real quidditch, once a researcher catches the bright spot, the match is over.

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Just like for the quidditch rules of the Harry Potter series, in real quidditch, once a researcher catches the bright spot, the match is over.

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While the pursuers focus on the score, two "drummers" try to stop them, either by attacking them or throwing Dodgeballs at them. Meanwhile, a seventh player, the "seeker", is aiming for the ultimate prize: the bright gold. Once a researcher catches the bright spot, the match is over.

The matches can be intense. Players run at full speed without any required protective equipment other than a mouthguard. And because the game is mixed, players of all genres face each other.

Barker is a drummer from the Quidditch team of the University of Maryland. This means that she often competes with other drummers to get the "dodgeballs" or "blasters" they use to push the pursuers. At 5 feet, 2 inches tall, she is the smallest person on her team. Male players sometimes exceed it sometimes.

"I blatantly attacked several times, where they attacked me too much for no reason," she said.

Barker testified that his second concussion occurred when she was attacked by a 200-pound man during testing. She got another one when a drummer hit her on the head with the bludger, but without letting go of the ball, essentially hitting her on the head.

In the field, Barker suffered several injuries. During her first year, she stated that the chair of her team had fractured her clavicle twice.

"I've seen broken thumbs, broken noses, broken collarbones," Barker said.

Study injuries

Amelia Gurley, a former Quidditch player, has also been affected by this type of injury, especially as the sport has become more competitive. A medical student at Brown University, Gurley is now trying to answer a fundamental question: how dangerous is Quidditch? In February, she began working on what she hoped would be the first international investigation into quidditch trauma.

John Sheridan (left) rushes to fly the ball to Dan Reise.

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John Sheridan (left) rushes to fly the ball to Dan Reise.

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"I'm worried," she says. "We are a new sport and nobody really cares about it."

To date, the most comprehensive data comes from a study conducted in 2017 by researchers from the University of Edinburgh, who surveyed about 50% of Quidditch players in the UK.

The study revealed a mixed picture. Although the overall injury rate is not higher than in other recreational sports, concussions account for more than 20% of all injuries. According to Ashley Cooper, one of the authors of the study, concussions were the second most common injury. Sprains were the most common injury with about 26%. Lacerations, at about 18%, were the third most common type of injury.

The authors rated the number of concussions in the study as "relatively high compared to other sports full contact". In comparison, the study found that the concussion rate in professional rugby was between 3% and 10% of all injuries.

Caleb McConnon rubs his neck during practice. According to a study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, concussions account for more than 20% of all Quidditch injuries. Above, players stretch out at a Quidditch session at the University of Maryland.

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Caleb McConnon rubs his neck during practice. According to a study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, concussions account for more than 20% of all Quidditch injuries. Above, players stretch out at a Quidditch session at the University of Maryland.

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According to the study, men and women are injured at about the same rate, but women suffered concussions at twice the rate of men.

There is still no study of American Quidditch injuries, which makes it difficult to say how security compares with the United States, where thousands of people play the game, and in the United Kingdom, where the number of players is estimated at several hundred.

USQ refused to provide specific injury data, but Sarah Woolsey, her executive director, said the league was aware of the risk of concussion and pointed out that medical staff must be present at every official match of the day. ; USQ.

"All certified coaches in our league are required to participate in a concussion training webinar," Woolsey said. "If a player is suspected of having a concussion, he is immediately removed from play and can not return to the game unless authorized by a health professional."

Rethinking the rules

For newcomers to Quidditch, the physical nature of the game can be revealing.

"I thought it would be a bunch of great fans with scars on their heads running around the field," said Cooper, referring to the Harry Potter brand scar.

A Quidditch player himself, Cooper, said that he was being "absolutely manhandled". "I thought if it was the contact, it would be those asthmatic nerds who were running around and it was not."

Now, many players are starting to think more seriously about the need to re-evaluate the rules of Quidditch.

One of the biggest debates in the sport concerns the technique. The rules of the USQ only allow one-arm tackles, but some players have begun to wonder if the double-arm would be safer.

"When you have the broom in one hand and you try to make a tackle, that makes it awkward, you have to twist or fall back and throw it on you," said Mack Morgan, a co-captain of the team. Maryland Quidditch Team University. "With two-handed plating, there will never be any real twisting motion."

Morgan said many of the injuries he saw in the field, such as torn knee ligaments, clavicle fractures and concussions, resulted from this twisting movement.

Woolsey declined to say whether the USQ was considering two-armed tackles, but pointed out that USQ players are required to sign a waiver stating that Quidditch is a full-contact sport.

Another topic of debate concerns the mixed nature of the game and the question of whether it is safe for people of different genders to face it, not only because the players do not wear protective padding, but also because of differences in size.

"One of the parts of the regulation concerns reckless or excessive force," Woolsey said. "Our athletes understand that it may take a different force to attack a smaller person than a larger person."

Many players say that they would be reluctant to eliminate the mixed game. Many say that they have been attracted to the sport because of its inclusiveness for people of all genders, including those who identify as non-binary.

"It's good to be able to play sports with people of all genders and from all walks of life," Gurley said.

Quidditch co-captain and hunter / guardian of the University of Maryland, Mack Morgan, holds his breath after a scuffle of the team.

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Quidditch co-captain and hunter / guardian of the University of Maryland, Mack Morgan, holds his breath after a scuffle of the team.

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The rules are usually updated annually, said Woolsey, based on the players' comments and internal injury data collected during each official match of the USQ.

She said that she thought that Quidditch was about to arrive at a point where the rules are more permanent, but will probably still change a little.

"Even sports practiced for more than a hundred years bring changes," she said.

Members of the Quidditch team of the University of Maryland meet at the end of a recent practice. Although the search is limited, some users of the game are starting to think more seriously about whether the rules of the game should be reevaluated.

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Members of the Quidditch team of the University of Maryland meet at the end of a recent practice. Although the search is limited, some users of the game are starting to think more seriously about whether the rules of the game should be reevaluated.

Noah Fortson / NPR

But as Gurley pointed out from Brown University, many Quidditch teams in the country are still not affiliated with the USQ. Thus, even if USQ were to make changes, they would not necessarily have any impact for non-USQ team players.

The former Gurley team, Providence Ashwinders, is not an official USQ team. It does not have to comply with the USQ regulations. Once, she remembers a part of her team in which a MSE was present only at half of the tournament.

"Different people in different places play Quidditch differently, which can be great," said Gurley. "But it can also be dangerous when it comes to things like security … We are not wizards, we can not fix things like that with a wave of the hand."


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