Let me please answer first to the second question: I’m fine. Castells didn’t hurt me. It’s just that it has been Christmas holidays, I had troubles with my computer, I had to took it to the workshop, and I am a tad lazy sometimes.
About the first question, there is a huge concern about safety and health within the casteller environment. Castells are an amateur activity and an injury can inflict in the personal or professional life of the castellers.
Although, Castells are relatively safe. And when I say “relatively” it’s because there is no human activity, sport or tradition with risk zero. And castells, although it has improved its safety standards, are not an exception to it.
When a castell fells down – in casteller lingo “fer llenya” or “doing firewood” (again, casteller lingo is very, eh, sui generis) – it’s really scary for the people who is looking. The audience may panic, becasue watching a human tower falling down is something spectacular and nasty at the same time. But usually, castellers don’t get much hurt as people think.
Studies have been made by the medical community, collaborating with the colles castelleres, and they reached the conclusion that castells are not as dangerous as seen in a first sight. Not for the adults, neither for the children, who, surprisingly, the statistics say that their risk of get injured is higher if they are playing football (soccer for those who are living in the US), rather than if they climb up castells.
You can take a look to the lastest report made in January 2011, in Catalan, here: http://www.cccc.cat/data/files/pdf/dossier%20risc%20castells%20gener%202011.pdf
Furthermore, the are protections for the castellers. Some of them are quite rudimentary, like the sash, rolled around the abdomen or the handkerchiefs for the wrists, and there are other protections like the helmet for the children that have been introduced recently.
If we have to put all the cards up, it is true that there have been fatal injuries related to castells, unfortunately. In more than 150 years of history, three people have been killed while they were performing castells. The last of them was in 2006, when the then-12-years-old Mariona Galindo Lora from the Capgrossos de Mataró fell off from a “tres de nou amb folre” and hit her head against the folre. This fatal injury united all the casteller world and fastened the introduction of the helmet for the children and since the introduction, according to the report I attached, no child has been injured with a traumatic brain injury, one of the most common injuries before the introduction of the helmet.
According to the Coordinadora de Colles Castelleres de Catalunya, in the last ten years the casteller activity has rocketed. Last year 2013 more than 10.400 castells raised, more than ever and the double of castells raised only five years earlier, in 2008. From this 10.400 castells, only a 3.1% fell down. This is the lowest percentages of falling downs ever in Castells world.
Anyway, If castells were complete safe, and no falling downs happened, there is still a certain risk of injury: back, neck, knee and others. These can be generally mitigated with a good warming-up and stretching before engaging any casteller activity, a good technique and knowing your own limits.
Safety goes always first, especially in castells. And although they are a risk activity, they are generally safe if the castellers have a good know how.