Obvious Things: Harmful Mountain Climbing

climbing_480This one goes in the “Things That Are Obvious to People Who Prize Common Sense” file:

“If you’ve ever fantasized about scaling Mount Everest, think again. A new study of professional mountain climbers shows that high-altitude climbing causes a subtle loss of brain cells and motor function.”

And here’s more:

“The scientists, who published their findings in the October issue of the European Journal of Neurology, compared the climbers’ M.R.I. brain scans with 19 age- and sex-matched healthy control subjects. A number of neuropsychological tests were also carried out to assess the climbers’ cognitive abilities, including memory and motor functions.

On scans, the climbers showed a reduction in both white and gray matter in various parts of the brain. Overall, the researchers found that the cognitive abilities that were most likely to be affected were the climbers’ executive function and memory.”

Kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?  Extreme sports can be fun, but they can also be quite harmful, allowing us to trifle with our bodies in pursuit of unnecessary fun.

There’s great wisdom in remembering one’s creatureliness.  We are human, finite, and ultimately frail.  Many Americans have in the last thirty years pushed against this common sense.  It’s nice when science confirms it, but one is also aware that we shouldn’t need science and its studies to make our decisions for us.

(Photo: Tony Smith for the NYT)

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