Safe skateboarding

What causes skateboarding injuries to children?

Most skateboarding injuries to children are a result of the high speeds reached, the lack of experience in controlling the skateboards and the absence of protective gear.1

Why are children vulnerable to injury while skateboarding?

Children have difficulty accurately judging speed and distances. In addition, there are challenges in learning skateboarding skills such as manoeuvering to avoid obstacles and balancing. Risk-taking behaviours associated with riding down hills on a road or “hitching a ride” behind a moving vehicle on a skateboard also increase the risk of injury.1

What types of injuries do children incur while skateboarding?

Forty per cent of emergency department visits for childhood skateboarding injuries were for fractures. The most severe injuries are those involving the head and brain and even seemingly minor head injuries may cause permanent brain damage. Four per cent of all skateboard injuries to children result in a brain injury.2

Why is wearing a helmet important?

Children who do not wear a helmet while skateboarding are 13 times more likely to suffer from head injuries.1 A head injury can permanently affect a child’s cognitive ability and function level. A properly fitted helmet can decrease the risk of brain injury by 80 per cent.3, 4 This means that four out of five brain injuries can be prevented if every skateboarder wears a helmet.

What type of helmet should be used for skateboarding?

There are special helmets designed specifically for skateboarding. Skateboarding helmets cover more of the back of the head than a bike helmet and will protect against more than one crash. Because falls are common in skateboarding, these helmets consist of a material that is specially engineered to withstand multiple impacts (even on the same spot). However, a skateboard helmet should not be used for bike riding unless specified on the label.

What additional protective equipment is important?

The use of wrist guards can help to protect against injury, since most fractures from skateboarding are to the lower forearm and wrist.1, 5 Arm fractures are more common in children under 10 years of age than over 16 years of age.6 Studies demonstrate that wrist guards reduce wrist fractures and sprains because they are designed to prevent sudden extreme hyperextension, to absorb shock and help dissipate forces by allowing skaters to slide forward on hard surfaces.7 Elbow pads and knee pads may also protect against injury, although there is limited scientific evidence for this.

Are skate parks effective in preventing injuries?

Skate parks are built in order to remove children from the hazards presented by traffic, pedestrians, uneven roads and sidewalks. However, research results are inconclusive regarding the effectiveness of skate parks in reducing injuries.1, 8-10 Injuries in skate parks may be due to a heightened sense of competition and subsequent increased risk taking, in addition to other peer influence and individual risk taking factors. Further research is necessary to determine if skate parks provide a protective effect for skateboarders.

Endnotes

1 Inoue N, Baker R, Scott D. Skateboard injury. Brisbane, AU: Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit; 2009.
2 Public Health Agency of Canada. Injuries associated with wheeled, non-motorized devices. In. Ottawa: The Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP), All ages, 1990-2007.
3 Thompson DC, Rivara F, Thompson R. Helmets for preventing head and facial injuries in bicyclists. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009(1).
4 Attewell RG, Glase K, McFadden M. Bicycle helmet efficacy: a meta-analysis. Accid Anal Prev 2001;33(3):345-52.
5 Zalavras C, Nikolopoulou G, Essin D, Manjra N, Zionts LE. Pediatric fractures during skateboarding, roller skating, and scooter riding. Am J Sports Med 2005;33(4):568-73.
6 Lustenberger T, Talving P, Barmparas G, Schnuriger B, Lam L, Inaba K, et al. Skateboard-related injuries: not to be taken lightly. A National Trauma Databank Analysis. Journal of Trauma-Injury Infection & Critical Care 2010;69(4):924-7.
7 Schieber RA, Branche-Dorsey CM, Ryan GW, Rutherford GW, Jr., Stevens JA, O'Neil J. Risk factors for injuries from in-line skating and the effectiveness of safety gear. N Engl J Med 1996;335(22):1630-5.
8 Everett WW. Skatepark injuries and the influence of skatepark design: a one year consecutive case series. J Emerg Med 2002;23(3):269-74.
9 Sheehan E, Mulhall KJ, Kearns S, O'Connor P, McManus F, Stephens M, et al. Impact of dedicated skate parks on the severity and incidence of skateboard- and rollerblade-related pediatric fractures. J Pediatr Orthop 2003;23(4):440-2.
10 Macdonald DJ, McGlone S, Exton A, Perry S. A new skatepark: the impact on the local hospital. Injury, Int. J. Care Injured 2006;37(3):238-42.