Break Point!

Volume 2, Issue 5 View the Archives May, 1999
Breakpoint Rolls Into Spring
All You Need is a Full Tank of Gas and the Open Road? Wrong!
Skateboarding- Spend More Time of Your Wheels Safely
Use Your Head When it Comes to Bicycle Safety
Motorcycle Safety from Head to Toe
Gear Up For Inline Skating
Prevention Web Sites of the Month
Next Month in Injury Prevention

Breakpoint Rolls Into Spring

Kathy O'Day
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program

Spring is a time to get rolling; bicycles, inline skates and skateboards to name a few. The warmer weather brings us back together with the sports equipment we haven't seen since the fall. These sports can provide hours of enjoyment to children as well as adults but using them improperly can lead to injury.

Spring is also a time when motorcycle riders take to the streets. The riding season is short in Chicago and most motorcycle riders are anxious to get rolling. There is much to prepare for before taking the cover off of your bike. Break Point will focus on safe riding practices and gear.

Break Point is produced by Loyola University, Burn and Shock Trauma Institute Injury Prevention Program. Please call us at (708) 327-2455 or email to: Kathy O'Day with any comments or questions.

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All You Need is a Full Tank of Gas and the Open Road? Wrong!

Riding a motorcycle on the busy streets of Chicago requires a combination of mental and physical preparedness. In 1976, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) found that motorcycle ridership was increasing as were the number of crashes and fatalities involving motorcycles. IDOT, aware of the need for education for motorcycle riders, began the Cycle Rider Safety Training Program. The Program has taught thousands motorcycle riders over the past 23 years. Research indicates that motorcycle riders involved in crashes are essentially without training; 92% are self-taught or learn from family or friends. Formal motorcycle training was found to reduce both crash involvement and the severity of injuries.

If you want to learn how to ride or are an experienced rider, IDOT offers a Cycle Rider Safety Training Program designed to offer both classroom and "hands-on" instruction.

The motorcycle rider courses and the experienced rider courses are offered to decrease the likelihood and the severity of crash involvement. Classes offered in this area are:

  • Electro Motive Division, La Grange
  • Oak Lawn Community High School
  • Honda Warehouse, Bedford Park

In order to drive a car, the student driver must pass the drivers education course and have completed 25 hours of driving time. Although not required for motorcyclists, such training makes sense. A motorcycle rider is 16 times more likely to die in a crash than is an automobile occupant (1996 NHTSA statistics)

Remember that riding a motorcycle involves risk, but preparation both physically and mentally will help to decrease that risk.

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Skateboarding- Spend More Time of Your Wheels Safely

Skateboarding has gained renewed popularity with older children. Skateboards from the past were wooden and children would "dress" their skateboard up to individualize it. Now, as skateboarding becomes more popular there are new designs and safer materials.

You will be able to get the most out of your skateboarding fun if you play it safe. Wearing protective gear, skate in control, and know how to have fun.

The protective gear is the same for skateboarding and inline skating. The gear works the same way for both by protecting your body from common injuries such as: head injuries, wrist fractures, knee and elbow injuries, road rash (when exposed skin scrapes against the pavement) and blisters or calluses.

Before you begin, pick a skateboard that is the right size for you. Ask a qualified salesperson for a board that's right for your height and weight. Don't get a board because it looks cool. Quality boards do make a difference. Shop around at a shop that deals with this type of sport instead of a department store.

Proper clothing should be worn when skateboarding. Make sure your hips, thighs and shoulders are covered in case of a fall. Choose bright colors to make yourself more visible. Choose shoes that are comfortable and have flat gummy rubber soles for traction on the board. If you wear baggy clothes, wear knee and elbow pads underneath. Gloves can help keep your hands from getting scraped if you fall. Sunglasses help to protect your eyes from UV rays and decrease the glare while you skate.

Leave your headphones at home! Never wear anything that keeps you from hearing what's going on around you. You will have less to fear when you're wearing your gear. That's the key to preventing injuries.

Be courteous, follow the rules of the road, know how to have fun and promote safe skating. No hot-dogging!

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Use Your Head When it Comes to Bicycle Safety

A bicycle is nearly as much a necessity as clothes and books. Some of the greatest milestones achieved as a child were on a bicycle. First, riding with training wheels and then finally mastering the art of riding on two wheels.

For adults, bicycles have a multitude of uses; providing relaxation, exercise and a useful mode of transportation. There aren't too many adults that can't remember their first bicycle or the feeling they had when they saw the bike next to the tree on Christmas morning.

Each year there are 900 bicycle-related deaths in the U.S. and another half a million bicycle-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments (U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission statistics). To reduce injuries, riders of all ages should use helmets. The use of bicycle helmets reduces the risk of head injuries by up to 85%.

The CPSC offers the following tips for buying and using bicycle helmets:

  • Buy a helmet that bears the label ANSI or SNELL approved.
  • Wear the helmet flat atop your head. Do not wear the helmet tilted back at an angle off of your forehead.
  • Make sure the helmet fits snugly and does not obstruct your field of vision.
  • Always wear the helmet with the chin strap firmly buckled. Make sure the chin strap fits securely and that the buckle stays fastened to provide impact protection. No combination of twisting or pulling should remove the helmet from the head or loosen the buckle on the strap.
  • Do not use a helmet after it has been involved in a crash. Damage to the helmet may not be visible. Even very small cracks in the helmet may greatly reduce a helmet's effectiveness in preventing injury. Either destroy the helmet or have it inspected by the manufacturer.

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Motorcycle Safety from Head to Toe

Once you have completed your motorcycle training, the next step is to get ready to ride. Before you take to the open road it is important to have the proper gear. An approved helmet is the most important piece of equipment you will need for your motorcycle.

Head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that motorcycle helmets decrease the likelihood of a fatality by 29%.

Only three states in the U.S. have no law requiring helmet use. Illinois is one of those states.

The helmet should be DOT approved or approved by the SNELL Foundation. It should fit snugly and cover the base of the neck for spinal cord protection. The recommendations for helmet replacement are every three years or sooner if involved in a crash.

The other protective gear that should be worn is: 

  • Long sleeves or a jacket- They protect the arms from flying debris, sun and provide a barrier next to the skin in a crash.
  • Long pants- There is no protection to the skin from asphalt. Long pants provide protection as an extra layer between the street and your skin.
  • Full gloves- Provide better grip to the handlebars and brakes and protect the hands in a fall.
  • Eye protection- In the form of goggles, face shields or glasses. But, make sure the glasses provide enough protection from glare or aren't too dark to see clearly on cloudy days. Eye gear also protects the eyes from flying debris or insects.
  • Sturdy footwear- Should have good soles and cover the ankles. Never wear open toes. Good footwear protects from abrasions and against the heat of the exhaust pipe that sits close to the feet.

The safety issues of motorcycle riding do not end with the gear. Motorcycle riders need to follow the same rules of the road as passenger cars. The main difference between driving a passenger car and a motorcycle is the motorcyclist must be more alert and aware of their surroundings.

Some of the ways to keep yourself safe on a motorcycle is to be aware of the following:

  • Drive defensively.
  • Watch out for hazards in the roads that could cause tipping or sliding.
  • Never drink and drive. Alcohol decreases your awareness.

When carrying a passenger be sure to:

  • Never carry a passenger unless your motorcycle is designed for one. This includes seating space and passenger foot pegs.
  • Never allow a passenger to sit anywhere except on the area of the seat designated for a passenger.
  • Make sure your passenger has the appropriate riding gear.
  • The passenger should be still and their torso should move with the bike. No turning or leaning in their seat.

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Gear Up For Inline Skating

Inline skating is beneficial for the body. Like other aerobic workouts, inline skating increases oxygen uptake, increases your heart rate and burns calories. It also increases muscle tone to the hips, buttocks, thighs and calves. There is also the added plus of being able to enjoy the nice weather and not be trapped inside a gym.

As with any new form of exercise, there is equipment that must be purchased and preparations to be made to ready yourself before you begin.

Before you put on your skates, you should have all the protective gear ready; the helmet, wrist guards, knee and elbow pads. Safety equipment is best when used all together.

Helmets- Head injuries can be severe. If you are thrown in a fall, the helmet protects the head from serious injury. Helmets if worn correctly can prevent fatal head injuries. Skating helmets are the same as bicycle helmets. They should fit securely on the forehead and be buckled tightly underneath the chin.

Wrist guards-Wrist fractures are the most frequent injury to the arms with inline skating. With a fall, the natural thing to do is to hold out your hands and brace the fall. Wrist guards support the wrists and absorb much of the force of the fall to protect the wrists from sprains or fractures. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 87% of reported wrist injuries could have been prevented had proper protective equipment had been worn.

Elbow pads- Protect during a sideways fall. According to the NCIPC, 82% of reported elbow injuries could have been prevented had proper protective equipment been worn.

Inline skating is not as easy as it looks. If it were easy and risk free, there would not have been 102,911 emergency department visits for related injuries in 1996. Before you set off to skate it is important to take a lesson or two. It could mean the difference between having fun or an injury.

The Chicago Skate Patrol assists skaters through education on skating safety, getting proper assistance with injuries and promoting safe use of the lakefront trails for all participants. They are a not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to help inline skaters. They provide free skating lessons at Oak Street Beach every Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 AM to 4:00 PM from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Look for the bright red banner. For more information on Chicago Skate Patrol visit their website at: or you can call (312) 747-4823 for more information.

Once you have completed your lessons, inline skaters need to find safe areas to skate. There are designated areas along the lakefront. Some bicycle paths allow inline skaters,check first before you skate. Be aware of bicycle riders when sharing the same path. When skating on the streets, do so where there is no heavy traffic and follow the rules of the road. Be polite and courteous when you skate always yield to pedestrians.

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Prevention Web Sites of the Month

American Automobile Association
Illinois Emergency Medical Services for Children
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
National SafeKids Campaign
National Sleep Foundation

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Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention

  • Fireworks Safety Month
  • National Safety Month
  • National Prevention of Eye Injury Awareness Week (6/28-7/5)
  • Pool Safety
  • Boating Safety

The information on the Loyola University Health System (LUHS) Web site is for educational purposes only. It is presented in summary form in order to impart general information relating to certain diseases, ailments, physical conditions and their treatments. The information provided through the LUHS Web site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease, nor is it a substitute for professional care. Should you have any health-care related questions or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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