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It sometimes feels like being a parent means living in fear of every lurking danger, especially when our kids test the limits of their physical skills. If your child has discovered the thrill of rushing down hills at up to 40 mph, share these skateboarding safety tips so you can both feel safe and more confident.
Many sports end up in bumps and bruises, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth the time to learn how to participate safely. A 2008 UK study of injuries from skateboarding accidents found that even though there were some injuries, banning the sport wasn’t justified. The report stated that skateboarding isn’t really dangerous in that the injuries seen from the sport aren’t too serious.
But that doesn’t mean children should rush out and start skateboarding without knowing all the facts or these essential skateboarding safety tips.
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THE IMPORTANCE OF FOLLOWING SKATEBOARDING SAFETY TIPS
A closer look at skateboarding accidents revealed that most skating accidents involve male adolescents between the ages of 11 and 14, and most occurred at home. The majority of injuries affected the upper body and were usually fractures or dislocations. Boys made up about 89 percent of the overall accidents, but accidents for girls have been on the rise since the mid-1990s.
What the statistics revealed
One thing parents might find particularly interesting is that younger children sustained more injuries to their heads and faces. Because they have heads bigger in proportion to the size of the rest of their body than older children, small children have a higher center of gravity. They also have slower coordination. They haven’t yet become skilled at maintaining their balance or breaking their falls.
Tweens and young teens received most of their injuries to the upper body. Older teens, who are more coordinated, were more likely to have lower extremity injuries, revealing that it wasn’t until the age of 15 or older that they became catch their falls and protect their heads, faces, and arms.
Who is most at risk of injury
While those studies pointed out a few expected profiles for risky behavior, a few other indicators revealed what kind of skateboarders were most likely to end up injured.
- One-third of the injuries occurred to inexperienced skaters who’d been using their board for less than a week.
- Even experienced skateboarders suffered injuries when trying new tricks or when skating on unfamiliar terrain.
- Skateboarders who refuse to wear protective gear also suffered the worst injuries.
- Homemade ramps were more likely to cause a visit to the hospital than well-constructed ramps at the local skatepark.
American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines and Skateboarding Safety Tips
Because of these results, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) important guidelines to follow. The AAP recommends that parents prohibit children under the age of 5 from using a skateboard at all, citing that they should instead encourage them to get involved with more age-appropriate physical activities. Adults or a responsible teen should always keep close supervision of any child under the age of 10 when using a skateboard.
The few skateboarding fatalities reported involved a motor vehicle, so no skateboarder of any age should ride near or around traffic. And that means no hitching a ride on a passing car or truck. You can never know when the driver is going to stop, which makes this stunt particularly dangerous.
The APP also recommends that skateboarders wear sufficiently protective gear, such as a CPSC-compliant biking helmet or an N-94 compliant multi-sport helmet. The N-94 standard involves a series of impact tests that ensure the helmet will protect your child’s head in the case of falls. They also recommend wrist guards, knee and elbow pads, and gloves.
One surprising recommendation from the AAP is their support skateparks. Out of traffic, well-constructed, and generally supervised, skateparks are high on the list of preferred sites for kids to practice their board skills.
Choosing the Right Gear for Safety
Because skateboarding injuries so frequently result in broken bones, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) has also issued guidelines for choosing gear with some other skateboarding safety tips.
The most important safety gear for any skateboarder is an adequately protective helmet. A broken wrist or arm is painful and inconvenient but cracking a skull like an egg on the sidewalk can actually be fatal.
As mentioned above, choose a high-quality multi-sport or bicycle helmet. Try on several sizes to make sure it fits your child correctly. This is not the time to be frugal and hope they’ll grow into it. To ensure the safest fit of the helmet, check the following:
- 1Their helmet should be worn flat on the head, and the bottom edge should be parallel with the ground.
- 2The helmet should sit low and cover the forehead.
- 3It should have side straps in the shape of a “V” around the ears.
- 4The buckle should fasten tightly with no more than room enough for two fingers between the chin and the strap.
- 5Their helmet should have removable or adjustable pads for a close fit.
- 6Have your child shake their head to ensure the helmet doesn’t move.
- 7The helmet should not obstruct movement, hearing, or your child’s vision.
- 8Replace the helmet if outgrown or damaged.
The plastic and foam padding can degrade over time, so don’t use an old, hand-me-down. You may need to replace a helmet every three to five years, even if it still fits or hasn’t been damaged. Check with the manufacturer for the expected lifespan of the product.
Because falls happen, wrist guards are vital pieces of equipment and can prevent broken wrists and arms. It’s instinctive for us to catch ourselves in a fall with our hands, and our wrists usually take the brunt of the force. Wrist guards will take the pressure off and provide shock absorption. They should be flexible, however, and never restrict your child’s dexterity. They should also be easy to take off and put back on again.
Along with protecting your feet and ankles, the right shoes will help your child “stick” to the board and maintain contact. They should always wear closed-toe, flat shoes, preferably with a grippy rubber sole.
Knee, elbow, and hip pads
To protect knees and elbows from the inevitable impact, purchase a good set of pads. Manufacturers may base pad sizes on either weight or by measurements. Try them on before buying them so you can make sure that they fit right. You don’t want them interfering with your child’s ability to move. Test the child’s range of motion with the pads on and make sure they can bend at the knees and elbows.
Gloves can add a bit of style as well as protect your young skater from abrasions. As well as risking sprains and fractures with every fall, their hands can suffer bruises and cuts from gravel and concrete.
Older teens looking to expand their skills in tricks and stunts should wear heavy-duty skating gear. Padded body armor adds an extra layer of protection. It also has the advantage of just looking cool on the course. Other heavy-duty equipment to consider is mouth guards to protect the teeth in case of falls.
Fashion forward skaters
Because teens are so very self-conscious about the way they appear, many are resistant to wearing safety gear at all. Kids concerned about looking “dorky” in all that protective gear may protest. Helmets, in particular, can become a point of contention. Your teen may prefer a “skating helmet,” that has a lower profile and doesn’t look like a mushroom sitting on top of their head. While safety regulations demand that helmets marketed for bicycling meet specific guidelines, other sports helmets may not meet those requirements.
For skating helmets, check to ensure it meets the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) F1492 standard. Manufacturers design biking helmets to protect against one major impact and then be discarded. Skating helmets should stand up to repeated but smaller impacts. Helmets compliant with ASTM F1492 may also offer more coverage than a biking helmet. Luckily, you can find helmets that comply with both standards.
Skateboarding Safety Tips for the Board
Choosing the right board for your kid’s skate style and available terrain can also help prevent injuries. Just as you would never drive a sports car off-road, your kids should have the right board for their expertise and environment.
Beginners may want to start with an old-school freestyle board suitable for flat ground. These longer, wider skateboards offer better balance for new skaters. Keep in mind that wheel size impacts their speed. Larger wheels can go faster but are harder to get up to speed. On the other hand, smaller wheels limit speed but are pretty easy to gain momentum on.
Boards with wide trucks with the wheels farther apart provide you kids with better control of the board. And while softer wheels don’t last as long, they offer more traction for beginning skaters.
For rough terrain, choose a big board with knobby rubber tires. Another benefit is that some off-road skateboards also have brakes.
Your kid should do a safety check on their board every time before riding:
- Keep trucks, mounting screws, wheels, and nuts tightened properly
- Check the board for excessive looseness in the trucks and wheels
- Inspect the board for any cracks or broken parts.
Important Safety Skills
Along with having the right equipment and protective gear and making sure it’s in good condition, your child should learn a few skills before hitting the concrete.
Learning to fall
It seems counterintuitive, however, since kids are going to fall when skating, they may as well learn how to do it safely. Remember the main reason that so many younger children suffer face and upper body injuries when skating is that they have yet to figure out how to fall the right way — without getting hurt.
Learning how to fall properly is one of the most critical skateboarding safety tips, and even the National Safety Council offers guidelines on how to do it right. Learning how to fall properly is a crucial component to preventing injuries.
- Crouching down on the board lowers your center of gravity. It also means you won’t fall as far if you do fall.
- Land on the padded parts of your body, such as the butt and thighs.
- Roll after the impact, instead of trying to absorb the impact with your hands.
- Try to stay relaxed instead of stiffening up against the fall.
- Spend some time practicing your falls and rolls on the grass or other soft surfaces, like an exercise mat.
Manage speed wobble
If the board begins to shake violently from side to side at high speeds, it can throw the rider off the board. To prevent this, bend forward and crouch low to regain balance.
General Skateboarding Safety Tips
Along with ensuring your child is the right age to start skateboarding and is using the right board and safety gear, have them learn the following general skateboarding safety tips:
- 1Don’t ride in crowds, especially those with many non-skaters. It’s difficult to stay safe with so many people moving in different directions at different speeds.
- 2Your skateboard only holds one person. Never ride two to a board.
- 3Don’t overestimate your abilities. Take the time to practice new tricks one step at a time. Experienced skaters suffer injuries when trying complicated maneuvers too soon.
- 4Never ride in or near traffic. All skateboard fatalities have involved motor vehicles, so avoid them at all costs.
- 5Don’t ride at night. Riding during low-light conditions increases the risk of accidents. It also increases the chances of being hit by a car.
- 6Check the terrain for obstacles before riding. Wiping out due to unseen gravel and rubbish is painful.
- 7Always ride with friends, because accidents happen. And make sure that one has a fully charged phone to contact parents or other help.
- 8Don’t drink alcohol or use drugs before or during skateboarding. Operating any moving equipment under the influence is dangerous.
Getting Your Kids to Comply with Skateboarding Safety Tips
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) in the United Kingdom offers some great advice to skatepark managers for ensuring that basic safety measures are followed. You can use the same tricks when taking your child to the skatepark.
Research shows that kids tend to follow the majority when it comes to wearing safety gear. If one kid is wearing a helmet, there’s an 85 percent chance that second child will put theirs on. If the first child isn’t wearing his gear, there’s only a 3 percent chance that the next child will. So, when taking your child to the skate park, steer them toward a child of the same age who has already put their helmet and gear on. It’s a bit sneaky, but so much better than nagging.
Another way of encouraging your child to follow safety guidelines is to allow them some leeway when choosing their gear. Wrist guards prevent broken bones and look cool, so let your kid pick out a pair they really like. Let them pick the pads they prefer, rather than the ones on sale. Sure, you’ll spend a bit more money. But it will probably be less than the cost of a trip to Urgent Care for stitches.
It may feel scary to watch your kid hurtling along at high speed, but keep these skateboarding safety tips in mind. The best way to prevent skateboard injuries is giving them a chance to practice and become proficient at their new sport.