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Skateboarding is a popular recreational activity among children and teenagers — especially boys. In recent years, skateboarding spin-offs, such as longboarding and mountain boarding, have become increasingly common.
Although it is a fun activity, skateboarding carries with it a serious risk for injury. In 2011, skateboard-related injuries accounted for more than 78,000 emergency room visits among children and adolescents (19 years old or younger).
There are many things that parents and children can do to help prevent skateboarding injuries, such as carefully selecting safe places to ride, and wearing protective gear, especially helmets.
On average, about 52% of skateboard injuries involve children under age 15. Most of the children injured are boys (average 85%).
Many injuries happen when a child loses balance, falls off the skateboard and lands on an outstretched arm. Skateboarding injuries often involve the wrist, ankle, or face.
- Injuries to the arms, legs, neck and trunk range from cuts and bruises to sprains, strains, and broken bones. Wrist fractures are quite common. Wearing wrist guards can reduce the frequency and severity of these fractures.
- Facial injuries, such as a broken nose or jawbone, are also common.
- Severe injuries include concussion and other head injuries.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under age 5 years should not ride skateboards. Children aged 6 to 10 years old need close supervision from an adult whenever they ride a skateboard.
Skateboarding is a special risk for young children because they have:
- A higher center of gravity, less development, and poor balance. These factors make children more likely to fall and hurt their heads.
- Slower reactions and less coordination than adults. Children are less able to "break" (slow down) their falls.
- Less skill and ability than they think. Children overestimate their skills and abilities, and are inexperienced in judging speed, traffic, and other risks.
Before getting on your skateboard, empty your pockets of all hard and sharp objects and put on your protective gear. Essential protective equipment includes:
- A properly fitting helmet
- Wrist guards help support the wrist and reduce the chances of breaking a bone if you fall.
- Knee and elbow pads reduce the severity of cuts and scrapes, and prevent gravel burns.
- Closed shoes that have slip-resistant soles.
- Goggles can keep debris out of the eyes.
Skateboarders who perform tricks should use heavy duty gear.
To protect your head from injury, always wear a properly fitting helmet. This is true no matter what your age, level of experience, or skateboarding location.
Get a quality bicycle or multi-sport helmet. It should meet or exceed safety standards of the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 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
- 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
- Does not interfere with your movement, vision, or hearing
Replace your helmet at least every 5 years, or when it is damaged or outgrown. You may need to replace it sooner if the manufacturer recommends it.
Children are most at risk for injury when they skateboard near traffic or in places where it is possible to collide with motor vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, or other obstacles.
To improve skateboarding safety, a growing number of communities provide supervised skateboard parks. These may have professionally designed "bowls" and "ramps" or other designated skateboarding areas that are located away from motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
In addition to choosing locations away from traffic, follow the recommendations below to help ensure a safe environment for skateboarding.
- Avoid skateboarding on irregular surfaces. Always screen the area before you skateboard, inspecting surfaces for cracks, rocks, and other debris.
- Do not use homemade skateboard ramps.
- Never use your skateboard in wet weather.
- Avoid skateboarding in crowded walkways or in darkness.
- Never hold onto the side or rear of a moving vehicle while riding a skateboard ("skitching"). You could fall or be thrown into oncoming traffic if the vehicle suddenly slows, stops, or turns.
There are different types of skateboards for styles of riding, such as slalom, freestyle, and speed. Some boards are rated for the user's weight. Use a quality skateboard that is appropriate for your level of ability and the type of riding you do.
Skateboards have three parts: the deck (the board itself), the trucks (the mechanism to which wheels are attached), and the wheels. Shorter decks are best for beginners because they are easier to balance and handle.
Be sure to keep your skateboard in good working order. You should inspect it before every ride. Look for problems that need repair, such as:
- Loose, broken, or cracked parts
- Sharp edges on metal boards
- A slippery top surface
- Wheels with nicks and cracks
Get professional help to repair serious defects.
- Learn the basic skills of skateboarding, especially how to stop, slow down, and turn.
- Be able to fall safely: If you are losing your balance, crouch down on the skateboard so that you will not have as far to fall. Try to land on the fleshy parts of your body rather than your arms. Relax and roll.
- Skateboard according to your ability level. Skateboarding skill is not acquired quickly or easily. Do not take chances by skateboarding faster than your experience allows, or faster than is safe for the surrounding conditions.
- Practice and master each skill before moving on to a more challenging trick.
- Staying in good physical condition can help to prevent skateboarding injuries.
- Practice tricks and jumps in a controlled environment, such as a skate park that has adult supervision and appropriate access to emergency medical care.
- Be considerate of fellow skateboarders, especially those who are younger and/or less skilled. Take turns on ramps or other equipment.
- Do not use headphones while skateboarding.
- Never put more than one person on a skateboard.
- Skateboarding accidents happen, so you should always know what to do in emergency situations. Call 911 for medical assistance or an ambulance.
Source: Department of Research & Scientific Affairs, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Rosemont, IL: AAOS; April 2013. Based on data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), 1994-2011; U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Reviewed by members of POSNA (Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America)
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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Rosemont, IL 60018