Skateboarding is a popular activity enjoyed by many young people. However, it's also an activity that causes many unintentional injuries. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons encourages physical activity as part of an overall health and fitness plan. You can have fun, but it is always important to be safe!
Each year in the United States, skateboarding injuries cause about 50,000 visits to emergency departments and 1500 children and adolescents to be hospitalized. (Source: AAP, March 2002.) According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 15,600 persons need hospital emergency room treatment each year for injuries related to skateboarding. Fractures are a frequent type of injury. Deaths as a result of collisions with motor vehicles and from falls are also reported.
Irregular riding surfaces account for more than half of the skateboarding injuries caused by falls. Wrist injury is the number one injury, usually a sprain or a fracture. Skateboarders who have been skating for less than a week suffered one-third of the injuries. When experienced riders suffered injuries, it was usually from falls that were caused by rocks and other irregularities in the riding surface.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
- Children under age 5 years old should never ride a skateboard.
- Children aged 6 to 10 years old need close supervision from an adult or trustworthy adolescent whenever they ride a skateboard.
The National Safety Council offers these skateboarding tips:
The skateboard/protective gear
- There are boards with varying characteristics for different types of riding; i.e., slalom, freestyle or speed. Some boards are rated as to the weight of the intended user.
- Protective equipment, such as closed, slip-resistant shoes, helmets and specially designed padding, may not fully protect skateboarders from fractures, but wearing it can reduce the number and severity of cuts and scrapes.
- Padded jackets and shorts are available for skateboarders, as well as padding for hips, knees and elbows. Wrist braces and special skateboarding gloves also can help absorb the impact of a fall. Heavy duty pads are also available and recommended for large or difficult stunts.
- The protective equipment currently on the market is not subject to government performance standards and careful selection is necessary.
- In a helmet, look for proper fit and a chin strap; notice whether the helmet blocks vision and hearing. If padding is too tight, it could restrict circulation and reduce the ability to move freely. Loose-fitting padding, on the other hand, could slip off or slide out of position.
Wear proper protective equipment
Before getting on your skateboard, empty your pockets of all hard and sharp objects and put on your protective gear. Always wear your gear whether or not you are simply going from one point to another or attempting a new trick or not. Wear your gear every trip, every trick, every time. Essential protective equipment includes:
- A properly fitting helmet
- Wrist guards
- Knee and elbow pads
To protect your head from injury, always wear a properly fitting helmet. This is true no matter what your age, level of experience or location where you are skateboarding. Get a quality bicycle or multi-sport helmet. It should meet or exceed safety standards of the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or Snell Memorial Foundation. You may need to try on several sizes and models to find a helmet that fits your head correctly and securely. A properly fitting helmet:
- Is worn flat on your head with the bottom edge parallel to the ground
- Sits low on your forehead but does not interfere with your movement, vision or hearing
- Has side straps that form a "V" shape around each ear
- Has a buckle that fastens tightly (there should be room to put only two fingers between the strap and your chin)
- Has pads inside that you install or remove so the helmet fits snuggly
- Does not move in any direction when you shake your head in any direction
Replace your helmet when it is damaged, outgrown or at least every five years. You may need to replace it sooner if the manufacturer recommends it.
Note: Effective January 1, 2003, California has expanded its bicycle helmet law to require that children under age 18 wear helmets each time they use a skateboard, in-line skates, roller skates or scooter, making the state's child helmet law the strictest in the nation. Violators face fines of $25, most of which benefits local health departments promoting helmet safety education and subsidizing helmet purchases for low-income families.
How to fall
Learning how to fall may help reduce the chances of a serious injury.
- If you are losing your balance, crouch down on the skateboard so that you will not have as far to fall.
- In a fall, the idea is to land on the fleshy parts of your body and make as many parts of your body land on the surface all at once avoiding harsh impact on any one body part or try to roll rather than absorb the force..
- Even though it may be difficult during a fall, try to relax your body, rather than go stiff.
Tips for using a skateboard
- Give your deck, wheels and trucks a safety check each time before you ride.
- Always wear safety gear.
- Never ride in the street.
- Obey the city laws. Observe traffic and areas where you can and cannot skate.
- Don't skate in crowds of non-skaters.
- Don't skate on another person's or business' private property.
- Only one person per skateboard.
- Never hitch a ride from a car, bicycle, etc (skitching).
- Don't take chances; complicated tricks require careful practice and a specially-designated area.
- Learn to fall—practice falling on a soft surface or grass.