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January 21, 2019

Teaching the youth acrobatics

It is human nature to feel proud when one accomplishes something against the odds or a feat, which an ordinary person would find difficult to do. The sense of accomplishment is especially strong when the achievement cannot be easily written off as a fluke, or as due to chance. When we come across a person brave enough to try the impossible, we want to applaud them and recognise what they have done. The danger is that humans being people who crave recognition push the boundaries further and further sometimes into the realms where the single event is no longer a result of human achievement but more due to peculiar circumstances and luck. A person attempting to repeat the same risks injury. Acrobatics is one activity that easily falls into this category.

An acrobat can be defined in two ways; the first is that of a person, usually an entertainer, who is skilled in feats of balance and agility in gymnastics; the second type of acrobat is a person who changes one’s viewpoint on short notice in response to the circumstances. The word acrobat is derived from Greek akrobatÄ“s, for one who walks on tiptoes and that is the sense you get when you watch an acrobat, a person light on their toes, strong and able to perform amazing movements and still land comfortably and effortlessly on their feet. The practice of acrobatics is thousands of years old and found in many cultures across the world.

However today other than in circuses, the country that is closely associated with acrobatics is China. There, acrobatics arose as part of village harvest festivals where villagers would put on shows of strength, grace and agility; and continue today as part of cultural displays, and as a sport, partly explains the dominance of China in gymnastics. In Kenya, acrobatics is less widespread, and it can even be supposed that the second type of acrobatics is the more common one. The question that then arises is where these Kenyan acrobats practice? Where do they hone their skills? The answer perhaps lies in venue. Acrobatics generally is performed indoors.

An acrobat, like a gymnast, has to be extremely strong, but flexible, remain relatively light and have the stamina and poise to maintain a single position for some time. This requires discipline in training and the character to perform on the day. The contradiction inherent in all these characteristics is that acrobatics is a sport for the young, experience counts relatively less than just being mentally and physically tough. As you can imagine injuries are common. The most frequent include strains and sprains, but serious and traumatic injuries can occur as well. The riskier the stunts people attempt to perform the more likely that traumatic injuries will occur. The types of injuries can be classified into two, overuse and acute. Overuse is the accumulation of aches and pains due to a repetitive motion. Incidence and severity of such injuries can be reduced by rest and appropriate training that does not lead to an overload on particular parts of the body.

Acute traumatic injuries on the other hand are more of accidents that happen and may not always be avoidable. Proper safety precautions including knowing the individual and environmental limits of what one can do are important in preventing such injuries.

The problem for the ordinary person watching an acrobat is that most of what they do looks simple enough and so people are often tempted to try. One uncommon injury, partly because it is embarrassing to report, is a penile fracture. The penis does not have a bone, but when the penis is engorged; under high pressure of up to 1500 mm HG, compare that to normal blood pressure of 120/80 mm HG; and is forced into an unnatural angle usually due to aggressive or acrobatic sexual intercourse, the membrane that encases all the blood can break, an audible cracking sound is heard, followed by the blood leaking out into surrounding tissue. Young men in their 20s and 30s, who tend to be engaged in more vigorous sexual activity face the highest risk. Older men in their 40s and 50s suffer less because the pressures are much lower. Treatment is prompt diagnosis followed by surgery to repair the tear. Left unattended, there maybe deformity and consequent erectile dysfunction.

So you might wonder how our politicians, predominantly male, are so good at arguing on both sides of whichever argument is put forward. The answer is that they train for it. After all our society favours the man. The problem arises, that the examples set is what youth try to emulate. Acrobatics has some potential health hazards, which we need recognise.

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