Skateboarding and In-line Skating (Care of the Young Athlete)

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Although skateboarding and in-line skating were
once considered extreme sports, they are now both very common activities for
children. Skateboarding and in-line skating involve street skating (using public
areas such as sidewalks, steps, handrails, and curbs) or skate parks designed
specifically for these sports.

With the growing popularity of skateboarding and
in-line skating comes a greater number of injuries. However, the risk of injury
can be reduced with taking lessons, use of safety gear including helmets, and
following the rules of the road.

The following is information from the American
Academy of Pediatrics about types of skateboards and skates and how to prevent
injuries. Also included is an overview of common skateboarding and in-line
skating injuries.

Types of skateboards and skates

Skateboards are a deck or board
with 2 sets of wheels attached to the deck by trucks. There are several
different types of boards, ranging from long boards to smaller vert or street

Caster boards are 2 decks or boards
connected by a beam with a spring in the middle and one wheel attached to each
deck by a truck. Rotating the boards back and forth propels the board. One brand
of caster board is called RipStik.

In-line skates, often called roller
blades, are roller skates with the wheels in a line as opposed to side by side.
This allows for faster speeds and sharper turns. In-line skates can be used for
hockey, freestyle skating, racing, fitness training, recreation, aggressive
skating, and cross-training for sports such as skiing. There are different
skates for each of these uses. (Note: Heelies should be considered skates and
not shoes.)

Scooters are a combination of
skateboards with a single wheel at the front and back of the board and a handle
connected to the front wheel for steering.

Injury prevention and safety tips

  • Technique. Athletes should
    learn and practice safe techniques for performing the skills that are
    integral to their sport. One-third of skateboard injuries happen in the
    first week of learning the sport. Beginners may find it helpful to take
    a class to learn the basics, including how to fall properly.

  • Equipment. All skaters, no
    matter how much experience they have, should always wear the proper
    safety gear.

    • Skates that fit
      properly. They should be checked regularly to make sure they fit
      and are in good condition. Wheels should be free of debris and
      replaced if worn out.

    • Helmets that fit
      properly and are certified for safety. (Unfortunately most
      in-line skaters do not wear safety gear, and more than 10,000
      in-line skaters suffer from head or face injuries yearly.)

    • Elbow pads, which
      can reduce injuries by 80%.

    • Knee pads, which
      can reduce injuries by 30%.

    • Wrist guards, which
      can reduce injuries by almost 90%.

  • Environment. Most young
    skateboarders are injured on public roads or sidewalks and in parking

    Rules of the Road

    • Be aware of other skaters,
      walkers, runners, cyclists, and cars that use the same areas,
      and use caution when skating around them.

    • Skate on the right side of
      sidewalks, bike paths, and trails. Pass on the left as cars do.
      Don’t pass without warning, and only when you have enough
      room to pass safely.

    • Avoid skating in the street in
      crowded areas. Be especially careful when crossing the street.
      Remember, all traffic rules must be obeyed.

    • Watch for changes in trails or
      street conditions, such as water, potholes, cracks, rocks, or
      other debris. Do not skate on wet or oily surfaces. When in
      doubt, slow down.

    • Follow skate park rules and
      don’t skate where it is not allowed. Public places often
      forbid skating in high-use areas because of the risk of
      collisions. (Many injuries happen in skate parks, especially in
      the ramp and bar areas.)

    • Before using any trail, make
      sure you know how to turn, control your speed, and stop.

    • Never put more than one person
      on a skateboard.

    • Children younger than 5 years
      should not ride skateboards. Children aged 6 to 10 years should
      have close adult supervision when skateboarding.

    • “Skitching”
      (holding on to the side or rear of a moving vehicle while riding
      a skateboard or in-line skates) should never be done.

Common injuries

Injuries from skating and skateboarding are
common and are usually caused by falls and collisions with other objects. Many
of these injuries are fractures or sprains to the wrists and ankles. Severe
injuries, including death, can occur and are often the result of head or chest
injuries from a collision with a car.

Ankle injuries

Ankle sprains are a common skateboarding or
in-line skating injury and can prevent athletes from being able to skate.
Ankle sprains are more likely to happen if an athlete had a previous sprain,
especially a recent one.

Treatment begins with rest, ice,
compression, and elevation (RICE). Athletes should see a doctor as soon as
possible if they cannot walk on the injured ankle or have severe pain.
X-rays may be needed.

Regular icing (20 minutes) helps with pain
and swelling. Weight bearing and exercises to regain range of motion,
strength, and balance are key factors to getting back to sports. Tape and
ankle braces can prevent or reduce the frequency of ankle sprains. Tape and
an ankle brace can also support the ankle, enabling an athlete to return to
activity more quickly.

Wrist injuries

Wrist injuries often result when athletes
fall onto the arms without appropriate protection. Athletes may have pain
with use and loss of range of motion.

Treatment begins with RICE. Athletes should
see a doctor if their wrists are swollen or painful the next day. X-rays may
be needed.

Head injuries

Concussions occur if the head or neck hits
the ground after collision with another person or object. A concussion is
any injury to the brain that disrupts normal brain function on a temporary
or permanent basis.

The signs and symptoms of a concussion range
from subtle to obvious and usually happen right after the injury but may
take hours to days to show up. Athletes who have had concussions may report
feeling normal before their brain has fully recovered. With most
concussions, the player is not knocked out or

Prematurely returning to play after a
concussion can lead to another concussion or even death. An athlete with a
history of concussion is more susceptible to another injury than an athlete
with no history of concussion.

All concussions are serious, and all athletes with suspected
concussions should not return to play until they see a doctor.


Skateboarding and in-line skating injuries can
be prevented when athletes use the appropriate safety equipment and safety
guidelines are followed.

Products and brand names are mentioned for
informational purposes only. Inclusion in this publication does not imply
endorsement by the American Academy of Pediatrics.