Tag Archives: mountain climbing

The high risk sports personality

Having looked at the personality traits that are common to runners in our last post, I thought it would be interesting to compare them with other types of athletes, in particular, those who are into high risk sports. In case you have forgotten, runners tend to be more introverted, and imaginative, among other things.

So what personality traits are common to those who participate in dangerous sports? According to Personality differences in high risk sports amateurs and instructors:

This study investigated the personality differences of 21 amateurs and 20 instructors who participated in the high risk sports of skydiving, hang-gliding, paragliding, scuba diving, microlighting, and rock climbing, versus those who did not. 38 men and 28 women (M age=32.6 yr., SD= 10.0) were assessed using the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-Revised, the General Health Questionnaire, the Generalised Self-efficacy Scale, and a Type A/B personality measure. Instructors and Amateurs scored significantly higher on Extroversion and lower on Neuroticism than Nonparticipants; however, they differed from each other on the General Health Questionnaire and Type A/B personality scores. Amateurs scored significantly higher on Psychoticism and Self-efficacy than Instructors and Nonparticipants. In conclusion, these test scores suggest that people who are attracted to high risk sports tend to be at the extroverted and emotionally stable end of the scale, with a tendency to exhibit Type A characteristics; however, Instructors’ scores on Psychoticism and Self-efficacy are more akin to those of Nonparticipants.

The tendency toward extroversion among participants in high risk sports makes them the opposite of introverted runners. They also seem to be more Type A, and if I am reading this correctly, amateurs in this sport have a tendency toward “psychoticism”? I can understand “crazy”, but “psychotic”? I wish they had elaborated on this.

Also, it’s strange how instructors in these dangerous sports have personalities more like non-participants. Is this the ultimate example of “what you don’t do, you teach?”.

I still can’t find anything definitive about joggling and personality.

Does climbing to extremely high altitudes lead to brain damage?


Mount Everest. Photo by Rupert Taylor-Price from Flickr.

I admire mountain climbers, especially those who look up at the highest peaks in the world and say: “I am going there”. I admire crazy people who can push themselves to the limits of human potential, making history, and inspiring others to push themselves to their limits.

That said, doing extraordinary things very often comes with extraordinary risks. Besides the risk of falling, the higher up you go, the thinner the atmosphere and the less oxygen there is. Just about everyone who climbs to the top of Mount Everest and other very high peaks suffers from hypoxia or low oxygen conditions, unless they bring an oxygen tank with them. Lack of oxygen can lead to dizziness, drowsiness, lightheadedness, and headache among other things that can severely compromise even an experienced climbers abilities.

But does this lead to permanent brain damage? When it comes to climbers of Mount Everest, according to Clinica QuirĂ³n de Zaragoza, Spain in Evidence of brain damage after high-altitude climbing by means of magnetic resonance imaging:


Only 1 in 13 of the Everest climbers had a normal MRI; the amateur showed frontal subcortical lesions, and the remainder had cortical atrophy and enlargement of Virchow-Robin spaces but no lesions. Among the remaining amateurs, 13 showed symptoms of high-altitude illness, 5 had subcortical irreversible lesions, and 10 had innumerable widened Virchow-Robin spaces. Conversely, we did not see any lesion in the control group. We found no significant differences in the metabolite ratios between climbers and controls.


We conclude that there is enough evidence of brain damage after high altitude climbing; the amateur climbers seem to be at higher risk of suffering brain damage than professional climbers.

I’ve never seriously entertained the idea of climbing Everest(29,029 ft or 8,848 m, or), but if I ever do I will keep this in mind, and will definitely bring an oxygen tank if I decide to do it(no I won’t joggle to the top). It looks like the brain damage may be permanent.

Everest’s 29,029 ft may seem like an incredible, very intimidating height to most of us, but this is because of our every day experiences of heights and distances. From another perspective, 29,029 ft is only about 0.14% of the distance from seal level to the center of the Earth.

Maybe I could joggle to the top after all?