The debate over skateboarding and safety has long been a divide between the community and skaters. If you skate and skate well, the typical mindset is to forgo the safety equipment.
I have been in the skateboarding industry for quite some time, as I own the Santa Cruz Skate and Surf Shop. The discussion about how, when and why parents should require their kids to wear safety gear while skateboarding is still the age old question.
However, there is another side to this debate: the 18-and-over crowd that skates. It appears that common sense would dictate that they wear helmets and pads so to avoid injury. Here is where the topic becomes a heat flash.
I refer to the CPSC statistics below:
- According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 26,000 persons need hospital emergency room treatment each year for injuries related to skateboarding.
- Irregular riding surfaces account for more than half of the skateboarding injuries caused by falls.
- Wrist injury is the number one injury, usually in the form of a sprain or a fracture.
- Skateboarders who have been skating for less than a week suffered one-third of the injuries.
- When experienced riders suffered injuries, it was usually from falls that were caused by rocks and other irregularities in the riding surface.
In comparison with field sports:
- The numbers of sport-related injuries for each sport are as follows:
- Gymnastics — 99,722
- Basketball — 680,307
- Baseball — 170,902
- Softball — 118,354
- Football — 413,620
- Soccer — 163,003
- Volleyball — 55,860
- Track & Field — 15,113
- Hockey — 63,945
Statistics from National Center for Sports Safety show that over 3.5 million kids need emergency care every year. From 1995 to 2005, the baseball-playing population reportedly dropped from 15.7 million to 14.6 million. If that trend continues, US skateboarders will outnumber baseball players in 2008. The numbers also show that skateboarding now has more participants than football in the US. Statistics state that you are 100 more times likely to get injured playing field sports than skateboarding.
I guess the point is, how much does wearing a helmet really affect the performance and safety of the skateboarder? Statistics show that more than one-third of the injuries occur within inexperienced skateboarders in less than one week of them picking up the sport. In addition, over half of the injuries come from irregular ground and rocks stopping the wheels.
On that note, skateboarding is an extreme sport. As much as we all loathe that connotation in the industry, it has merit.
Skateboarding is not for everyone, and if you do not know your limits you can be seriously injured, or in the most extreme cases, die. I am not trying to scare parents; little Johnny can get injured in pools, baseball fields and riding his bike. Actually, believe it or not, skateboarding is a safer experience than field sports.
Therefore, the bigger question in my mind is this: Do you know your limitations? Whether you are experienced or not, this is a personal question that every skater has to ask.
Even the pros wear their helmets and pads when they are competing because they want to be able to skate in the next competition injury-free.
Unfortunately, sometimes people forgo the proper safety equipment when skating recreationally and especially when they are pushing their limits. This decision can result in a bad combination.
Recently, there have been a few skateboarding accidents that have highlighted the negative side of skateboarding, not just wearing helmet and pad related instances.
In July, a fatality occurred in Capitola where a skateboarder collided with a pedestrian. The walker, an elderly woman, died from her injuries. Much debate has circled this episode with people trying to figure out how it could have been avoided. Was the skater breaking the law? As skateboarding evolves, more opportunities exist to have such an accident take place and just like anyone else, a skateboarder has to be aware of his/her consequences.
Last week, a skater in his 40's went down in the bowl at , while wearing a helmet that might have not been properly fastened. He is still in critical condition as of press time and needed to be airlifted to a trauma center due to the extent of his injuries. The message here might be to make sure to use the safety equipment as it was designed.
Both of these are anomalies; thousands of kids are skateboarding everyday all over Santa Cruz County without incident. If every auto accident were hyper-analyzed, no one would be driving their cars.
Skateboarding is a sport of pushing the limits, it's what keeps kids flocking to it and trying to master the latest maneuver of their idols. I do believe that children and beginner skateboarders should always wear the maximum safety equipment as provided by their parents or guardians. If your area has a skate park that has safety equipment requirements, just wear it or don't skateboard there.
There is a saying in skateboarding that if you are not falling then you are not pushing yourself.
It just makes plain sense to wear a helmet while skateboarding in parks and anytime your skateboard is being used for more than transportation. And even when being used in transportation, you can still crack your melon. Think about it, it only takes one.
In the end, skateboarding is still safer than field sports as stated in the statistics, but life is about consequences of actions and fate. If you choose not to wear safety equipment, specifically a properly fastened helmet, you have to be aware of the fact that you are increasing your chances of seriously hurting yourself when you fall.
Make sure you have fun when you skateboard, be safe for yourself and people around you with the biggest point, and please recognize your limitations.
Here is a list of the Santa Cruz County Skateparks and their requirements for safety equipment are usually posted on site:
Please visit Wormhoudt Skateparks for a more pictures of the Santa Cruz County skateparks they have built.