In the Harry Potter series, nary a quidditch match passes without a broken arm, broken nose, or cluster of dementors swarming the pitch hoping to suck someone’s soul out through their mouths. Turns out real-world quidditch is just as, if not more, brutal.
According to NPR, a recent study out of the University of Edinburgh found that though injury rates reported by quidditch players were no higher than other sports, concussions accounted for 20 percent of those injuries. For reference, concussions account for somewhere between three and ten percent of all professional rugby injuries, so 20 percent is kind of a lot.
Real life quidditch has the same basic rules as fictional quidditch: each team consists of three chasers trying to get a volleyball through hoops at either end of the field, a keeper defending the hoops, two beaters who peg players on the other team with volleyballs, dodgeball style, and a seeker looking for the snitch. In place of broomsticks, players must keep a piece of PVC pipe between their legs. Sounds silly, but in actuality, it’s brutal:
“I thought if it was contact it’d be these asthmatic nerds running around and it wasn’t,” Ashley Cooper, one of the authors of the study told NPR.
Quidditch teams are also made up of all genders, which offers an inclusivity that draws many to the sport but comes with additional problems for its women players, who experience concussions at twice the rate of male players. Vanessa Barker, who plays at the University of Maryland, has suffered multiple concussions while playing:
“‘I’ve gotten egregiously tackled many times, where they tackle me too hard for no reason,’” she said.
Barker said her second concussion happened when she was tackled by a 200-pound male during tryouts. She got another when a male beater hit her in the head with the bludger, but without letting the ball go, essentially punching her in the head.”
The sport has a governing body, U.S. Quidditch, that implements official rules and requires medical personnel at every match. A rep for USQ declined to say what updates were being considered to prevent injury, and many teams remain unaffiliated with USQ, so those teams are possibly even more likely to be engaging in full-contact murderball.