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.
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,
- 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 riding–slalom,
freestyle, or speed. Some boards are rated for the weight of the
- 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
Who Is Affected?
Millions of people in the U.S.–the majority of them under
age 25–take 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
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.
American Academy of Pediatrics
In 1998, AAP issued a statement on in-line
skating injuries in children and adolescents (www.aap.org/policy/re9739.html).
Call AAP at 847-228-5097.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Through the public information link on the AAOS
home page (www.aaos.org) , 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
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 (www.cpsc.gov/kids/skate.html).
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 (www.nemc.org/rehab/factshee.htm).
National SAFE KIDS Campaign
Visit the SAFE KIDS home page (www.safekids.org)
to access fact sheets on sports and recreation injuries. Call
National Youth Sports Safety Foundation
has a variety of fact sheets on sports safety available for purchase.
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 www.aaos.org/wordhtml/papers/position/inline.htm.
Accessed July 8, 1999.
American Academy of Pediatrics. In-line skating
injuries in children and adolescents. Pediatrics 1998;101(4):720-721.
CDC. Toy safety–United 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 www.nemc.org/rehab/factshee.htm.
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
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. CPSC
projects sharp rise in in-line skating injuries. News release, June 21,
1995. Available at www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml95/95135.html.
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 www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/5050.html.
Accessed July 12, 1999.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Holiday skateboard and rollerskates safety. Available at www.cpsc.gov/kids/skate.html.
Accessed July 12, 1999.
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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:
- Protect your head, knees, elbows and wrists by always wearing a helmet, knee pads, and elbow pads with wrist guards.
- 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.
- Always skate on the right side of paths, trails, and sidewalks.
- Avoid collisions by passing pedestrians, cyclists and other skaters on the left.
- 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.
- Stay away from areas with heavy car traffic.
- 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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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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