Mosh Pit or Death Pit?

As many as 50 members of the audience at a live show needed medical help.


May 7, 2008 — -- Taking in a live concert may be more dangerous than one might expect -- especially when you consider the risk of getting kicked in the face by a flaying crowd surfer or stage diver.

As many as 50 concertgoers at New Jersey's Bamboozle Festival this weekend reportedly sought medical attention after a mosh pit got out of hand.

Witnesses reported seeing several of the 70,000 attendants treating bloody noses and worse, getting carried out on stretchers.

"There is no way to crowd surf or stage dive safely consistently," said Paul Wertheimer, president of Crowd Management Strategies Inc., the only organization that tracks concert crowd safety incidents. "People go up [surfing] and stay up but more often than not they fall on people. They can die."

The dangers of mosh pits are alarming, according to concert safety experts and emergency medical professionals, who told that the most injuries incurred from mosh pits aren't actually by the moshers but by innocent bystanders.

There have been nine mosh-related deaths recorded between 1994 and 2006, according to Wertheimer, who added that there very well may be more that have gone unreported.

At a 2007 Smashing Pumpkins concert in Vancouver, a 20-year-old concertgoer collapsed in a mosh pit and later died, according to Wertheimer's records.

The number of injuries is far greater: Crowd Management Strategies estimates that 10,000 people have been injured in and around mosh pits in the last decade.

At a University of Central Florida concert in April, four concertgoers were rushed to the hospital with broken bones after being crushed in what Wertheimer calls "mosh pit chaos" and at the 1999 Woodstock festival first aid casualties were in the ten thousands.

"A festival where moshing is prevalent, like Bamboozle, is likely to generate 100 to 200 mosh-related injuries requiring first aid or hospital care," said Wertheimer, who makes estimates based on the approximate number of mosh concerts and the general number of people injured at the events. "Smaller concerts, from 500 to 5,000 [attendees] will generate six to 40 first aid casualties or injuries."

Messages left by for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the presiding body over the Bamboozle Festival, were not immediately returned.

And the types of injuries that music fans can suffer are serious and can be paralyzing or even fatal, said Dr. Michael Gerardi, the director of the Pediatric Emergency Medicine for the Atlantic Health System in New Jersey.

"You can fall from six or seven feet and that's enough to break or hurt your neck," said Gerardi. "You can sustain facial injuries and break your nose or injure your eye from hitting a belt buckle or a piece of jewelry on your way down."

"If you land the wrong way you could snap your neck," added Gerardi.

Not surprisingly broken bones are the most likely, said Gerardi, who noted that most of the floors at concerts are concrete and do not provide a padded landing spot for moshers.

"Mosh pits are an interesting problem," said James Chippendale, the president of CSI Entertainment Insurance, a brokerage firm for more than 3,000 concerts and festivals nationwide. "They're very tough to control and can break out anytime anywhere."

The majority of mosh-related insurance claims Chippendale sees are from those who are injured after standing around them -- not those who are actually participating.

"The people who are in it are voluntarily doing what they do in mosh pits, slam-dancing," said Chippendale. "Those aren't the ones filing the claims, it's usually the person that they're falling on."

The unpredictable nature of mosh pits has spurred several insurance companies to exclude those kind of injuries, said Chippendale.

"Insurance for concerts that have a moshing potential are definitely more expensive," said Chippendale. "A Metallica concert will have more exposure to moshing and the [insurance] rates are definitely higher."

"You have to have well-trained security in place to control mosh pits," said Chippendale. "But even then, someone can get hurt in a matter of seconds."

Despite his overwhelming research highlighting the dangers of mosh pits, Wertheimer says he does not want to see mosh pits banned from concerts but rather monitored more carefully.

He suggests venues seperate areas specifically for mosh pits with metal barriers so that nonmoshers are not injured and also advises security to do a better job of controlling the number of people who are allowed into a concert, helping to prevent crowd crushes.

"Mosh pits shouldn't be banned if they can be managed safely," said Wertheimer, who has been injured in several mosh pits and now wears special outfits to protect himself at concerts, including steel-toed boots with no-slip soles. "It can be fun and enjoyable and can work in a relatively safe manner."

And no matter what concert security tells fans, chances are concertgoers are going listen to the band as well as security officials when it comes to moshing.

"Bands like it, they want to see a reaction to their music," said Wertheimer. "They call for it and ask people to mosh."

"They say, 'I want to see people get nuts and form a pit!'" added Wertheimer.