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Children's Health

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Roller Shoes Risky

Protective Gear Recommended When Using Roller Shoes
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 4, 2007 -- Gliding down the sidewalk in roller shoes may look like fun, but without protective gear the shoes may wind up sending kids straight to the emergency room.

A new study shows one hospital reported 67 cases of injuries caused by roller shoes last summer vacation. Wrist injuries were the most common. No protective gear was used during the time of these injuries.

“To reduce the rate of such injuries, parents buying roller shoes need to understand both the benefits and risks of this activity,” write researcher Mihai Vioreanu, MRCSI, of Temple Street Children’s University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, and colleagues. “Full protective gear needs to be used at all times, including a helmet, wrist guards, knee pads, and elbow pads when using roller shoes.”

Roller shoes are a popular type of sneaker that has a detachable or convertible wheel in the heel, which allows the wearer to lean back and glide on the wheel as well as walk. They’re often sold under the brand names “Heely” or “Street Gliders.”

The shoes were introduced in 2000 in the U.S., but researchers say little is known about their safety.

Roller Shoes Tied to Injury

In the study, published in Pediatrics, researchers tracked the number of roller shoe-related injuries at their Dublin hospital during the 2006 summer school holiday.

They found 67 children suffered orthopedic injuries while using Heelys or Street Gliders, such as broken bones or dislocated joints. Girls were much more likely to be injured than boys, and the average age of injured children was just under 10.

The study showed:

  • Broken wrists were by far the most common type of injury reported. Other injuries included other broken bones in the arm, elbow dislocation, foot and ankle injuries, and broken bones in the leg.
  • Injuries were most commonly caused by falling backward or forward as the child tried to transfer their body weight and find balance on the wheels. In a few cases, the injury was caused by jumping or a sudden change of direction.
  • Most of the injuries happened while gliding outdoors on a road, sidewalk, cycle lane, or playground.

Researchers also found that 20% of the injuries occurred on the first time the child tried to use the roller shoes and 36% occurred while they were learning to use them.

They say the results show that close adult supervision is needed during this learning curve and use of protective gear, including wrist guards, is recommended at all times.

  • How do you keep your kids injury-free while they're rollin'? Share your tips on the WebMD Parenting: Preschoolers and Gradeschoolers board.

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