Skateboarding Safety

Alexandra M. Burgar, M.D.

Skateboarding is an increasingly popular sport enjoyed by many young people.  Skateboarding involves speed, balance and coordination, providing a low impact aerobic workout.  However, if a rider is not careful, serious injuries may result.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), over 15,000 persons need hospital emergency room treatment per year for injuries related to skateboarding.   Irregular riding surfaces (driveways, streets) account for more than half of these injuries secondary to falls.  Sprains, fractures, contusions and abrasions are most frequent.  The wrist is the most frequent site hurt, followed by ankle fractures and head injuries.  One third of the injuries were found to occur in skaters who have been skating less than one week.  Experienced riders sustain injuries as a result of falls from irregular surfaces.  Six out of ten injuries occur in children <15 years of age, males greatly outnumbering the females ten to one.  Younger riders and those with less experience have not yet developed their motor coordination which results in frequent falls due to loss of balance.  Despite these figures, most riders avoid injury by exercising caution and using the right protective gear.  The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and National Safety Council have devised the following skateboard tips.

1. Skateboard and protective gear:

Use a quality skateboard and make sure that all the parts are in proper condition including the deck (board), wheels and trucks (mechanism to which the wheels are attached).  Boards are rated to the weight of the intended user, short decks being best for beginners.

Wearing protective equipment (helmets, wrist guards, knee and elbow pads, slip- resistant shoes) can reduce the numbers of injuries from falls, but may not fully protect the rider from fractures or breaks of the bones.  In January, 2003, California expanded its bicycle helmet law to require children less than 18 years of age to wear helmets each time they use a skateboard, inline skates, roller skates or scooters.  The helmet must be properly fitting and should sit low on the forehead with straps that form a “V” on each ear and a buckle that fastens tightly.  It should be snug enough not to move in any direction when the head shakes, but not interfere with movement, vision or hearing.  The helmet should be replaced if it is damaged or outgrown.

2. How to fall:

Learning how to fall properly reduces the chances of serious injury.  If the skater is loosing their balance, he or she should crouch own on the board so there is less distance to fall. It is best to land on the fleshy parts of the body, relax, and roll rather than absorb the force with ones arms. A skater should learn to fall by practicing to on a soft surface or grass.

3. Tips for using the skateboard:

  • The skateboard should be checked before it is ridden, looking for loose, broken or cracked parts, sharp or worn surfaces, or nicked wheels.
  • Safety gear must always be worn.
  • Obey the city laws, observe traffic and areas where one can and can not skate.  Never ride on the street, only on smooth pavement.
  • Limit riding to one person per skateboard.
  • Never “skitch” – hitch a ride from a car or bicycle.
  • Don’t take chances – complicated tricks require careful practice and a specially designated area.
  • Never skate in wet weather or dark areas with limited visual fields.
  • Learn the basic skills of skateboarding – how to stop properly, slowing and turning techniques, and how to fall safely.
  • To improve safety, communities provide skate parks with smooth surfaces away from motor vehicles and pedestrian traffic.

4. Children:

Skateboarding is not recommended in children less then five years of age.  They have not yet developed physical skills and cognitive ability a person needs to control a skateboard and ride it carefully.  Children ages 6-10 need close supervision.  Skaters should not attempt tricks beyond their level!

5. Stay in shape:

A skater can prevent injuries by staying in top physical condition.  Stretch and do conditioning exercises before and after skateboarding.

With these tips, skateboarding can be a fun, healthy sport.  Remember, in an emergency – stay calm and call 911.

 

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