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Don't Let That Skateboard Land You in the ER

Tips to avoid the falls that can cause a host of hurts

SATURDAY, April 19, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- If you're looking for a way to get to your local emergency room this spring, you might want to hop aboard a skateboard.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 26,000 people are treated in the nation's ERs each year for skateboard-related accidents. Sprains, fractures, contusions and abrasions are the most common injuries, but deaths from collisions with motor vehicles or from simple falls are not unheard of.

Several factors, including lack of protective equipment, poor board maintenance and irregular riding surfaces, are responsible for the most serious injuries.

Another common element in skateboarding accidents is the age of the skateboarder. As the CPSC points out, riding a skateboard requires good balance and body control. Many young skateboarders simply haven't yet developed the necessary balance and don't react quickly enough to prevent injury.

The CPSC recommends the following to make skateboarding a safe leisure activity:

  • Pick the right equipment for the skateboarder's age and size, as well as for the skateboarding environment. Boards have a range of characteristics for different types of riding, and some boards are rated for the weight of the rider. A shorter deck is best for beginners, since it is easier to balance and handle. Typically wide, soft wheels offer maximum traction and work best for beginners, too.
  • Always check the board for hazards such as loose, broken or cracked parts, sharp edges on metal boards, slippery top surface and wheels with nicks or cracks before jumping on and taking off. Serious defects should be fixed by a qualified repair person before use.
  • Remember to check for environmental hazards before a ride; look for holes, bumps, rocks and any debris. Irregular riding surfaces account for more than half the skateboarding falls that cause injuries. Areas set aside especially for skateboarding generally have smoother riding surfaces and are also good places to learn how to ride.
  • Always wear protective gear. An approved, impact-resistant helmet is a must for skateboarders, whether beginners or experienced riders. Knee and elbow pads can help protect against hand and wrist injuries; goggles offer protection from the wind and airborne debris.
  • Never ride in the street. Collisions with motor vehicles often causes serious injury and even death.
  • Don't take chances. Novices should avoid attempting complicated tricks without supervision and a spotter.
  • Learn how to fall without injuring yourself. Try to land on fleshy parts of the body and try to roll rather than using the hands, wrists or arms to break the fall.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on kids and sports injuries.

SOURCE: U.S. Consumer Product Safety COmmission
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