Skateboarding Safety

Skateboarding is an increasingly popular activity for kids -- especially teenage boys. It's fun and challenging as well as a great form of exercise. But it can also be very dangerous. Injuries range from minor cuts and bruises to fractures and even to brain damage.

Each year, skateboarding injuries cause about 50,000 visits to the hospital emergency room. Most skateboarding injuries involve the wrist, ankle, or face and are the result of falling. About 1,500 kids are hospitalized due to serious head injury, which can sometimes be catastrophic.

Don't take skateboarding safety lightly. Use protective equipment and don't take unnecessary risks when you skate. Here are some tips to consider.

Use the Right Gear
There are many different kinds of boards for different types of riding, such as slalom, freestyle, and speed. Make sure you are using the right board for your weight and intended use. Check your board for hazards such as loose, broken, or cracked parts, sharp edges, and nicks and cracks in the wheels. Always wear proper protective gear:

* Never ride without a helmet. It should fit snugly and have a chin strap. The helmet should not impair vision and hearing.
* Use additional protective gear, including slip-resistant shoes, pads for knees, elbows, and hips. Padded jackets, wrist braces, and special skateboarding gloves can also help absorb the impact of a fall.

Know How to Fall
About one third of all skateboard injuries happen to beginners. Knowing how to fall safely can help reduce your chances of a serious injury. Here are some tips:

* If you are losing your balance, crouch down on the board so you won't have as far to fall.
* When you fall, try to roll rather than absorb the force with your arms, wrists, and hands.
* Try to land on the fleshy parts of your body.
* Do your best to relax your body during a fall. The stiffer you are, the greater chance of injury.

Don't Take Risks
After beginners, skateboarders with a year of experience or more have the next highest number of injuries. Most of these injuries are the result of hitting a rock or uneven surface while attempting a difficult stunt. Here are more ways to help avoid an accident:

* Never ride in the street.
* Before riding, screen the area for holes, bumps, rocks, and any debris.
* Complicated tricks require careful practice and a specially designed course.
* Never hitch a ride from a car, bus, truck, or bicycle.
* Only one person per skateboard.

under the age of five should never be allowed on a skateboard. Children six to ten years of age should be closely supervised.

-- Beth Adamo
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