To the untrained eye, mosh pits can seem chaotic, and sometimes even dangerous. But to those used to the art of moshing, the practice is perfectly safe in most circumstances.
Mosh pits are safe at concerts as long as participants act responsibly, but there is a risk of injury from unmitigated contact and even weapons if people do not show restraint.
The images from some shows can be unconvincing. Seeing people move erratically and initiate contact with one another in uncoordinated movements and large groups at a time can be quite alarming.
But it is a practice where participants and bands echo the importance of looking out for each other’s wellbeing whenever people are moshing together, so that everyone can enjoy themselves.
What Exactly Is Moshing?
Moshing is exceptionally an unorthodox style of dancing at rock and metal shows. Fans in the crowd will open up a space on the floor and start moving to the music.
As fans move, they then look to make contact with other people in the space, causing a chaotic movement. As more people get involved, this creates a zone known as a mosh pit.
The contact isn’t about fighting or hurting other individuals. It acts in a rhythmic movement where everyone looks to dance in a chaotic but synchronized manner.
When pits form, they can envelope small parts of a floor to the entire crowd. With no set protocols and number of participants, it’s a movement that can expand and dissipate in a very quick manner.
Different Types of Mosh Pits
When it comes to identifying mosh pits, different types of moshing can evolve within the crowd. These different styles facilitate their own rules and movements. Some of the different types of mosh pit include:
- General Mosh Pit – A general space where people freestyle their movements. Participants can bump into each other, move freely themselves and act without any general synchronization
- Circle Pit – Circle pits see a giant space open on the floor. When a signal is given, everyone runs and moves in a circular direction at the same time.
- Wall of Death – The bands are the leaders in a wall of death. The crowd is split in half on either side of the room, waits for the vocalist’s signal and then they charge to the person directly opposite. As the two sides impact, general pits then form within
Within these different mosh pit forms, you will find different movements and reactions. However, all pit forms generally break down into smaller general pits after a short while until they stop and the crowd returns to normal.
Can You Get Hurt In A Mosh Pit?
With physical contact inevitable at any time, there’s always a risk of injury within a mosh pit. And it’s these risks that give the notion that mosh pits aren’t safe at concerts.
The extent of injuries possible from mosh pits was recently published in a 2017 study by medical personnel at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Hospital in Worcester, MA. In the study, they found that an average of 33% of all injuries from large rock festivals came from moshing.
The study found that in the 253 injuries reported, 64% of these injuries were to the head and that 68% of them occurred from general moshing.
However, the figures don’t look as grim as they might read. These figures looked at events where crowd numbers were at a minimum of 5,000 people. Alongside that, there were more medical events unrelated to mosh pit injuries than there were from the pits themselves. With that in mind, it seems that mosh pits are safe at concerts in comparison to other event possibilities.
Common Mosh Pit Injuries
Within the UMass study, it was shown that most of the injuries within the mosh pits occurred from external items being thrown into the pits.
45% of injuries came from the patient being struck by an item instead of being punched, kicked or pushed over. When it did come to direct contact with other fans, kicks were the most common type of injury occurring for 21% of the recorded strikes.
Associate Prof. Andrew Milsten MD, Director of Disaster Medicine & Emergency Management at UMass Memorial, believes that some of these causes are preventable – particularly about the use of foreign objects.
When discussing the matter, Prof. Milsten said that “bag checks at the gate” would always be one of the best ways to minimize the risk of injury. However, some of these causes “speak for themselves” when it comes to the nature of mosh pits.
Factors That Influence Mosh Pit Injuries
Deciding if mosh pits are safe at concerts doesn’t just come to moshing itself. There are plenty of factors which could affect the risk of injury. Some of these matters include:
- Medical Conditions
- Willingness of fans
The biggest debate comes over just how much alcohol might play in a mosh pit. Alcohol or drugs can dramatically alter someone’s mindset and control, leading to a greater risk of injury.
Although this is something that always presents a threat at shows, Prof. Milsten revealed that it wasn’t as big of a risk as you might think. “Most of the mosh pit patients were teenagers. Therefore, they would not have been served alcohol“ he remarked.
Instead, conditions at a show could play a much bigger part in injuries inside a venue. If a show is outside, uneven grounds or wet surfaces could increase the risk of an injury.
Furthermore, the harder nature of indoor floors could pose a risk in some cases – such as hitting your head in a fall. It was a risk that Prof. Milsten highlighted, stating that this scenario “could be worse than being outdoors and hitting the ground”.
How To Safely Mosh
When it comes to mosh pit safety, the onus is split across several areas – the crowd, the band and venue organizers
Those directly participating in moshing or encouraging it generally know the risks they face. But they should also know how to keep those safe around them.
Whenever you see a band encouraging a mosh pit, you will almost always see them encourage the crowd to pick up anyone who falls and to look after one another.
Likewise, many people moshing will acknowledge others in a pit and offer help directly to anyone who needs it.
Additionally, some medical institutions help give participants an idea of how to mosh safely through guidelines. For example, in Australia, the Western Australian Department of Health issued guidelines on how to mosh safely. The guide picks on several points such as preventing crowd surfing, keeping staging safe, and making sure organizers are always keeping an eye on the crowd.
Indeed, putting the onus on the venue host is something that Prof. Milsten believes should take priority. When asked what would help make moshing a safe practice, he revealed that the “key is going to be good preparation, onsite security and good emergency management protocols.”
On the whole, mosh pit safety is decided by how everyone acts at the show. The basic premise of dancing and chaotically making contact does increase the risk of injury.
But this is only half the story. Most injuries at rock and metal shows are not caused by moshing at all. And the injuries that do occur often do so with someone in a good frame of mind. Fans and acts also tend to encourage safety when moshing, further reducing the chance of injury.
Doing all of this helps keep fans safe at shows, and supports that mosh pits are safe at concerts to a certain degree.
Special thanks to Prof Andrew Milsten MD