Does Age Matter? A Qualitative Comparison of Motives and Aspects of Risk in Adolescent and Adult Freeriders.

Author:Fruhauf, Anika


Globally 80 % of adolescents (aged 11-17 years) do not reach the minimum of physical activity per week (Hallal et al., 2012). Reasons to drop out of sports are specifically lack of time, lack of enjoyment and conflict of interests with varying reasons between boys and girls (Butcher et al., 2002; Slater and Tiggemann, 2010). Lack of time could be referred to the pressure of scheduled training sessions in sport clubs. However, sports like skateboarding, freestyle and freeride skiing, which are mostly self-organized, might not be affected by this reason. The interest in those activities is increasing (Erickson et al., 2013). Over 20 years ago, the American TV-Channel ESPN introduced the winter X-Games to present the most talented skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers in freestyle competitions, including park skiing, superpipe and big air events (Erickson et al., 2013). Media consumption is growing with over 58 million consumers mostly aged between 10 to 24 years (Bennett et al., 2003). The growing media attention and financial industry together with improved technologies could be contributing to a new shift in sport participation away from traditional sports towards more adventure based sports involving a certain amount of risk (Mei-Dan, 2018).

Conceptualization of high-risk sports and freeriding

Adventure sports (Heggie and Caine, 2012; Kerr and Houge Mackenzie, 2012), action sports (Bennett et al., 2003), extreme sports (Pain and Pain, 2005; Brymer and Schweitzer, 2013a) and high-risk sports (Barlow et al., 2013; Woodman et al., 2010; Castanier et al., 2010) are often used interchangeably in the literature to refer to high-risk activities such as downhill mountain biking, paragliding or mountaineering. In the medical literature with its focus on injuries and the treatment of those, the term extreme sports is more commonly used (Feletti, 2017). However, one can also find sports with demanding 'extreme' physical affordance like ultramarathon running (Knechtle, 2017). Some first attempts tried to define the term extreme sports and differentiate it from other terms such as adventure sports (Cohen et al., 2018; Buckley, 2018; Immonen et al., 2017). In psychological approaches towards motivation and personality, extreme sports mostly refer to high-risk, high-skilled activities (Buckley, 2018). Immonen et al. (2017) defined extreme sports as 'emergent forms of action and adventure sports, consisting of an inimitable person-environment relationship with exquisite affordances for ultimate perception and movement experiences, leading to existential reflection and self-actualization as framed by the human form of life.'(p.2). This is also seen in freeriding, which describes skiing and snowboarding in undeveloped natural spaces (Reynier et al., 2014), jumping from sheer cliffs (Brymer and Schweitzer, 2013a), and involves the risk of serious personal injury or even death, through falls, avalanches or other natural hazards (Haegeli et al., 2012). Freeriding was reported to be a way of self-expression for participants involving unusual movement experiences when gliding through deep and untouched snow (Fruhauf et al., 2017). In order to answer specific research questions within that field it might be clarifying to differentiate extreme sports which also include activities like ultramarathon running and to use the term high-risk sports for high-skilled sports "where you have to reckon with the possibility of serious injury or death as an inherent part of the activity" (Breivik, 1999; p.10).

Freeriding, along with other high-risk sports, is becoming increasingly popular (Pain and Pain, 2005) and is th e fastest growing segment in the ski industry (Vargyas, 2016). As with other high-risk sports and due to the self-organization of the activity, total numbers of freeride participation are unobtainable and thus no mortality rates can be calculated (Brugger et al., 2013). Although in some high-risk sport activities prospective studies calculated injury propensity (Becker et al., 2013) this has not been done in freeriding yet. Whereas the total number of avalanche accidents seem stable (Procter et al., 2014), the number of avalanche fatalities through backcountry recreationists (e.g. freeriders, snowshoers, snowmobilers) is growing in some areas and the majority of victims are male (Jekich et al., 2016) what may be an artifact of higher numbers of male participants (Leiter and Rheinberger, 2016). In the winter of 2016/17, 136 avalanches involving humans were registered in Austria; 40 persons were injured, 25 died (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Oosterreichischer Lawinenwarndienste, 2017).

Whereas risk-seeking people tend to be younger and male, an analysis on ski touring participants revealed that avalanche information for the day of departure could be more frequently reported by younger people (Procter et al., 2014), what might be discussed as prevalence of more precautionary behaviour in this group.

Literature on high-risk sport participants

Research on high-risk sport participants has long been dominated by the single focus on sensation seeking and risk-taking as the only driver for participation (Clough et al., 2016; Brymer and Mackenzie, 2017). Participants were portrayed as adrenaline seekers, taking unnecessary pathological risks and being young and male (Clough et al., 2016). However, this does not account a) for the gender and age diversity in high-risk sports, b) the effort and skill participants have investigated in the sport, c) the variability in high-risk sports and d) the benefits experienced by the participants (Woodman et al., 2010; Barlow et al., 2013; Clough et al., 2016; Fruhauf et al., 2017). Recent research has shown several potential psychological benefits for high-risk sport participants such as increased positive affect, resilience and self-efficacy as well as fulfillment of the three basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness (Clough et al., 2016). Further benefits were named as challenging oneself, experiencing intense emotions, having a counterbalance to everyday life and a connection with nature (Clough et al., 2016; Fruhauf et al., 2017; Brymer and Gray, 2010). Additionally, high-risk sport participation can increase physical activity, which has positive psychological and physiological benefits (Clough et al., 2016) and is underrepresented in adults and adolescents. Of the 13-15 year-olds, 80.3 % do not meet the recommendations of health enhancing physical activity with girls being less active than boys (Hallal et al., 2012). The age of adolescence represents an enhanced reward sensitivity which is often linked to increased risk-taking behaviours in both animals and humans (Galvan, 2013). Most research on adolescent risk--taking has been directed towards negative risks such as drug use and reckless-driving.

However, the approach behaviour and novelty seeking which is influenced by reward sensitivity seems to be necessary for adolescents to gain independence (Galvan,

2013) and risks may also be positive in a socially acceptable and constructive way (Duell and Steinberg, 2019). High-risk sports might be an opportunity for positive risk-taking in adolescents (e.g. snowboard freestyle as mentioned as an example in Duell and Steinberg (2019)). Risk-taking (both positive and negative) is seen as a way to earn prestige in adolescents and was seen as a reinforcing behaviour (Dahl et al., 2018). This is in line with recent research showing a heightened risk-taking behaviour and risk-perception when surrounded by peers (Silva et al., 2016). However, adolescents also learned faster from both positive and negative outcomes and had a better task performance when being observed by peers than tested alone (Silva et al., 2016). Since skitouring is usually performed in groups (91.6% in groups of two or more) (Procter et al.,

2014) and friends were reported as a crucial motive for participation in freeriding (Fruhauf et al., 2017), these sports might be an interesting target to study risk-taking and peer influence in adolescents.

As a major part of the population consuming high-risk sports are adolescents (Bennett et al., 2003), studying behaviour patterns of this group seems to be of interest. Despite first studies and reviews about injuries in adventure and extreme sports in adolescents were published (Emery, 2018; Heggie and Caine, 2012; Heggie and Kupper, 2018), to the best of the authors' knowledge, no studies on psychological consequences of adolescent high-risk sport participation are available.

Although there are some questionnaires available which investigate psychological constructs behind sensation seeking (Barlow et al., 2013; Fruhauf et al., 2018b; Fruhauf et al., 2019; Castanier et al., 2010; Woodman et al., 2013), this approach was considered too narrow to enter a research field which is widely unexplored. Thus the following study used a qualitative investigation to assess motives and aspects of risks in adolescent and adult high-risk sport participants. In a recent qualitative analysis on adult freeriders, no age differences in motives or aspects of risk were seen in participants between 18 and 25 years or older than 25 years (Fruhauf et al., 2017). The ages between 18-25 years are also known as emerging adulthood which are characterized by an instability and unpredictability on demographic norms and roles (Arnett, 2000). Further they don't see themselves as adults nor as adolescents which reflects the instability of this age group. Arnett (2000) calls this time the roleless role where most of the demographic changes take place (e.g. home, work, family). However, as it may be that there are individual differences regarding durations of adolescence, a cut off at 25 might have diminished potential age differences. Thus, the aim of the present study was to gain a first insight into motives and risk-related aspects in adolescent freeriders aged [less than or equal to]...

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