sports injury prevention tips

  1. Don't Be on Thin Ice This Winter
  2. Gearing Up For The Game
  3. Gliding Down the Hills Safely
  4. In-line Skates and Skateboards
  5. In-line Skating Safety Fun
  6. Kick-Off Into Spring
  7. NATA: - School Sports Related Injury Data
  8. One, Two, Three Strikes You're Out
  9. The Prepared Athlete
  10. Scotters, A Toy on Many Children's Wish List
  11. Skateboarding: More Dangerous than Skating
  12. Sledding is Not Just Child's Play
  13. The "Weekend Warriors" Guide to Fitness Safety
  14. Wheeled Recreation Resources: Bikes, In-line Skates, Scooters, and Skateboards
  15. Wintry Fun Can Pose Risk For Injury

In-Line Skates and Skateboards

In-line Skates and Skateboards

Each year, more than 100,000 people are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries related to in-line skating, and nearly 40,000 seek emergency treatment for skateboarding injuries. The majority of these patients are under age 25. Many injuries can be prevented if skaters wear proper safety gear and avoid risky skating behavior.


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Injury Prevention Tips for In-line Skaters and Skateboarders

To help your child avoid injuries while in-line skating and skateboarding, follow these safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and other sports and health organizations. (Note: Adult skaters should heed this advice, too.)

  • Make sure your child wears all the required safety gear every time he or she skates. All skaters should wear a helmet, knee and elbow pads, and wrist guards. If your child does tricks or plays roller hockey, make sure he or she wears heavy-duty gear.
  • Check your child's helmet for proper fit. The helmet should be worn flat on the head, with the bottom edge parallel to the ground. It should fit snugly and should not move around in any direction when your child shakes his or her head.
  • Choose in-line skates or a skateboard that best suits your child's ability and skating style. If your child is a novice, choose in-line skates with three or four wheels. Skates with five wheels are only for experienced skaters and people who skate long distances. Choose a skateboard designed for your child's type of ridingslalom, freestyle, or speed. Some boards are rated for the weight of the rider.
  • Find a smooth skating surface for your child; good choices are skating trails and driveways without much slope (but be careful about children skating into traffic). Check for holes, bumps, and debris that could make your child fall. Novice in-line skaters should start out in a skating rink where the surface is smooth and flat and where speed is controlled.
  • Don't let your child skate in areas with high pedestrian or vehicle traffic. Children should not skate in the street or on vehicle parking ramps.
  • Tell your child never to skitch. Skitching is the practice of holding on to a moving vehicle in order to skate very fast. People have died while skitching.
  • If your child is new to in-line skating, lessons from an instructor certified by the International In-line Skating Association may be helpful. These lessons show proper form and teach how to stop. Check with your local parks and recreation department to find a qualified instructor.
  • If your child gets injured while skating, see your doctor. Follow all the doctor's instructions for your child=s recovery, and get the doctor's OK before your child starts skating again.

The Problem 

Who Is Affected?

Millions of people in the U.S.the majority of them under age 25take part in in-line skating and skateboarding as a form of recreation and exercise. But these sports can be dangerous, especially when safety precautions are ignored. Each year, more than 100,000 skaters are injured seriously enough to need medical care in hospital emergency departments, doctors' offices, clinics, and outpatient centers. Most of these injuries occur when skaters lose control, skate over an obstacle, skate too fast, or perform a trick.

While most skating injuries are minor or require only outpatient care, 36 fatalities have been reported since 1992. Thirty-one of those skating deaths were from collisions with motor vehicles. Among all age groups, 63 percent of skating injuries are fractures, dislocations, sprains, strains, and avulsions (tears). More than one-third of skating injuries are to the wrist area, with two-thirds of these injuries being fractures and dislocations. Approximately 5 percent are head injuries.

Safety gear has been shown to be highly effective in preventing injuries among skaters. Pads can reduce wrist and elbow injuries by about 85 percent and knee injuries by 32 percent. Although studies have not determined the degree to which helmets reduce head injuries among skaters, helmets have been shown to be highly protective among bicyclists.

Despite the proven safety benefits and relative low cost of helmets and pads, many skaters don't wear them. Nearly two-thirds of injured in-line skaters and skateboarders were not wearing safety gear when they crashed. One study found that one-third of skaters wear no safety gear, and another one-third use only some of the recommended safety equipment. Teens are least likely to wear all the safety gear. Nine out of ten beginning skaters wear all the safety gear, but studies have shown that many skaters shed the helmet and pads as they gain experience.


Safety Resources 


American Academy of Pediatrics

In 1998, AAP issued a statement on in-line skating injuries in children and adolescents ( Call AAP at 847-228-5097.

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Through the public information link on the AAOS home page ( , you can access fact sheets on a variety of popular sports, including in-line skating. Call 1-800-346-2267.

Brain Injury Association

BIA's fact sheet on sports and concussion safety ( provides data on brain injuries for several sports, including in-line skating. Call 1-800-444-6443.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

CPSC offers kids advice on skateboard and in-line skating safety ( Call 1-800-638-2772.

National Pediatric Trauma Registry

The NPTR, which studies the causes, circumstances, and outcomes of injuries to children, has a fact sheet on in-line skating injuries (

National SAFE KIDS Campaign

Visit the SAFE KIDS home page ( to access fact sheets on sports and recreation injuries. Call 202-662-0600.

National Youth Sports Safety Foundation

NYSSF ( has a variety of fact sheets on sports safety available for purchase. Call 617-277-1171.




The data and safety tips in this fact sheet were obtained from the following sources:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Injuries from in-line skating. Position statement. Available at Accessed July 8, 1999.

American Academy of Pediatrics. In-line skating injuries in children and adolescents. Pediatrics 1998;101(4):720-721.

CDC. Toy safetyUnited States, 1984. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 1985;34(5):755-6, 761-2.

National Pediatric Trauma Registry. Falls while skating or skateboarding. NPTR fact sheet #9. April 1999. Available at Accessed July 7, 1999.

Schieber R, Branche-Dorsey C, Ryan G. Comparison of in-line skating injuries with rollerskating and skateboarding injuries. JAMA 1994;271(23):1856-1858.

Schieber R, Branche C. In-line skating injuries: Epidemiology and recommendations for prevention. Sports Medicine 1995;19(6):427-432.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. CPSC projects sharp rise in in-line skating injuries. News release, June 21, 1995. Available at Accessed July 12, 1999.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Safety commission warns about hazards with in-line roller skates: Safety alert. CPSC document #5050. Available at Accessed July 12, 1999.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Holiday skateboard and rollerskates safety. Available at Accessed July 12, 1999.

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In-Line Skating Safety Fun

Safe America

Ever watch expert in-line skaters do flips, turns and tricks you could only do in your dreams? Ever notice their protective gear? You will be skating and smiling if you follow these safety tips provided by the International In-Line Skating Association:

  1. Protect your head, knees, elbows and wrists by always wearing a helmet, knee pads, and elbow pads with wrist guards.
  2. Wear a certified helmet - one with ANSI or Snell label. Remember: never wear a used helmet, since it could have hard-to-detect flaws or cracks.
  3. Always skate on the right side of paths, trails, and sidewalks.
  4. Avoid collisions by passing pedestrians, cyclists and other skaters on the left.
  5. To avoid falls keep an eye on the ground ahead of you and stay away from uneven or broken pavement, water, oil, or debris on the trail.
  6. Stay away from areas with heavy car traffic.
  7. Always yield to walkers.

The Safe America Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to injury prevention and the practice of good safety habits through the distribution of safety products and innovative educational programs. For more information call: 770-218-0071 or email:

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Skateboarding: More Dangerous Than Skating

Walking after a 50-year sleep, a modern day Rip Van Winkle would be amazed at the skaters and skateboarders whizzing by on city streets, sidewalks, and bicycle paths. Skating has become a major recreational activity, with injuries skyrocketing accordingly. In 1996, hospital emergency rooms treated 139,000 people for inline skating and skateboard injuries.

A study using data from the National Pediatric Trauma Registry at the New England Medical Center shows that skateboarding injuries for severity. Among skateboarders, 50.8 percent had head injuries, compared with 33.7 percent of inline skaters and 18.8 percent of roller skaters. According to Injury Severity Scores (a medical measure of how seriously hurt a person is), skateboarders were 8 times more likely to be severely or critically injured than roller skaters and twice as likely as inline skaters. The average hospital stay was 6.0 days for skateboarders, 3.4 days for inline skaters, and 2.4 days for roller skaters.

What does this mean for parents? If your child wants skates or a skateboard, skates are safest, while skateboards have the most potential for causing injury. All skaters, especially skateboarders, should use pads and helmets to prevent injuries, since lower body and head injuries can be quite serious.

A high proportion of injuries happen to new skaters and skateboarders, suggesting that many skating-related problems could be prevented if novices practice the basics on flat, smooth, dry surfaces away from motor vehicles. Most skating injuries are caused by forward falls on outstretched arms. New skaters should practice falling and sliding on their wrist and kneepads. They'll learn how to handle a spill and the resulting dents and scratches will make the point about the importance of safety gear.

The study, by J. Scott Osberg, Sue E. Schneps, Carla Di Scala, and Guohua Li, appeared in The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine Volume 152, October 1998. Reprints are available.

This document was last updated on November 3, 1999.

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