Skateboard Injuries Reaching Extremes

Street Skating Styles Prompt Rise in Injuries

Oct. 11, 2002 -- Extreme skateboarding might be all the rage, but a growing number of skateboarders are finding themselves in the emergency room with a raging injury. A new study shows skateboarding injuries doubled between 1993 and 1998, and they continue to grow by an average of 16,500 fractures, sprains, and cuts each year.

Researchers say that compared with other sports, skateboarding is relatively safe. But they warn that a lack of standards for safety equipment and the growing popularity of extreme forms of the sport have caused the rate of skateboarding-related injuries to grow faster than the number of people who start skateboarding.

"Changes in the nature of the sport could account for the increased rate of injury," says researcher Flaura K. Winston, MD, PhD, of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, in a news release. "In the 1990s, the sport transitioned from a 1980s style known as 'vert,' which used 10-foot-high ramps, to 'street skating.' Street skating uses lower ramps and increasingly complex stunts and tricks. As its name suggests, this style encourages people to literally skate in the streets."

The study found injuries requiring hospitalization were 11 times more likely to have been caused by contact with a vehicle than those that were less serious.

The findings appear in the October issue of the Journal of Trauma.

The researchers say it's the first study to compare injury rates from skateboarding with other popular youth sports. They found the number of skateboarding-associated injuries treated in emergency rooms across the U.S. in 1998 per 1,000 participants was twice as high as that found for in-line skating, but only half as high as basketball.

The study looked at federal statistics on product-related injuries as well as surveys from the National Sporting Goods Association.

The statistics show that the rate of skateboard-related injuries actually dropped significantly between 1987 and 1993, but this period was followed by a steep rise, especially among young adults and adolescents. Researchers say males had the highest rates of injuries and the most common types of injuries were wrist fractures, ankle strain/sprain, face cuts, and wrist strain/sprain.

Because the most common skateboarding-associated injuries are similar to in-line skating injuries, the researchers say they can be prevented. The use of wrist guards in in-line skating has reduced injuries in this sport yet currently there are no standards in place for protective equipment in skateboarding. The researchers urge the development of such standards to help reduce injuries.

They recommend the following safety measures:

  • Communities should develop skateboarding parks and encourage youth to use them.
  • Skateboards should not be ridden near traffic.
  • Holding on to a moving vehicle should never be done while skateboarding.
  • Use of a helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads, and kneepads should be strongly encouraged.
  • Children under age ten should not use skateboards without close supervision by an adult.
  • Children younger than age five should not use a skateboard at all.