Play Safe: Skate Safely

Gone are the days when a child could simply skate away for the day, and the only thing parents worried about was whether or not the child would return home, in tears, with a skinned knee or two.

Parents today have become wiser through stories of other types of injuries that can occur while skating. With the advent of faster, less stable in-line skates, the injuries have become more severe. Even with traditional "quad" skates and skateboards, parents are purchasing more practical protection gear. Children are more inclined to wear this protective gear more often than not. It makes sense and it's far less expensive than a trip to the emergency room!

Therefore, when your skating child goes out today, make sure he or she is protected with the following:

* A helmet prevents brain injuries that may be tragically irreversible. It also protects the scalp.
* Wrist guards will guard against wrist fractures as kids naturally try to break their falls by putting their hands in front of them. They can also prevents cuts and scrapes.
* Gloves protect hands from scrapes, cuts and pavement burns that occur when the hands are put out to help break a fall.
* Elbow pads were unheard of when most parents were kids but are now the standard in preventing nasty scrapes on the pavement or even bone fractures, which can be the most painful broken bones to get.
* Knee pads are important for obvious reasons -- to protect from bruises, cuts, scrapes, and pavement burns that are inevitable during skating.

My parents never taught us kids how to fall. We just did it, and most of the time things came out okay. However, perhaps if we had heard of these simple tips, a lot of childhood's scars and hard knocks could have been avoided. Pass these on to your children:

* When falling, try to remember to land on the fleshiest parts of your body such as your backside.
* Falls are scary, but you'll hurt a lot less afterwards if you can somehow remember to go limp and relax.
* Don't stick your arms and hands straight out in front of you -- rather, try to roll out of a fall.
* If you feel as if you're going to lose your balance, crouch down so that the trip to the ground won't be quite as long.
* Of course, traffic rules are doubly important once a child has wheels of any kind. Not only are they just as responsible to obey all traffic rules, but they also have to be mindful of staying a little bit farther away from traffic, lest they fall unexpectedly. It's better to fall on the sidewalk than to lose control and fly out in front of an unsuspecting motorist.

Another issue that is being raised again, with the advent of flashy chrome scooters, is the mix between pedestrians and riders in crowded urban settings. Your child should know that when it becomes crowded, it's time to get off the scooter or skateboard because a someone can step out in front of your child's scooter at any time -- and then you, the parent, will be responsible for that person's medical bills. In addition, some children like to "buzz" pedestrians to startle them, purposely getting close in order to scare the walker. This has resulted in many dangerous collisions that, once again, the parents have had to make restitution for.

A child should also be mindful of their own skill level. It's difficult for some beginners to admit that they aren't ready to take on "Heart Attack Hill" (of which every neighborhood seems to have at least one), especially if all their peers have been doing so for a long time. But your child needs to know that the higher the "trick" level, the worse the scrape or fracture.

Finally, any equipment with moving parts carries with it the possibility of loose gears, chains and other devices that can catch on clothes or, worse yet, a finger or foot. Make sure you and your child regularly check wheels and other attachments for security.

-- Bob Stuber

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