Skateboarding has to be one of the most demanding activities out there. Although at first glance, it may not seem as dangerous as other extreme sports such as base-jumping, skydiving or dirty biking; skateboarding comes with its own lot of injuries and complications.
We’ve all seen these fail compilations of skaters sacking rails, doing the splits or face-planting on the concrete. So I guess it’s not illogical to ask yourself is skateboarding is bad for your body.
Skateboarding is a physically demanding sport, depending on the intensity of your skateboarding session and style. If you only cruise around you won’t get hurt frequently, but technical street skating or transition skateboarding is a lot harder on the body.
How Does Skateboarding Affect Your Body?
For starter, the repeated action of pushing on a skateboard can provoke a slight pelvis misalignment, which will make your posture slightly crooked. It might affect a lot of other areas of your body if you don’t pay attention.
Street skateboarding is physically demanding. The repeated slams can leave you with chronic pain. As pro-skater Chris Cole once said: “In the last 20 years I’ve been skating, there hasn’t been a single session where I felt 100% – not feeling any pain”.
Transition skating is easier on the joints and will allow riders to pursue skateboarding longer. It is quite common to see former street skaters switch to transition skating as they age.
But do not think all skateboarding does is weaken your body. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Skateboarding makes work very specific muscle groups you won’t be soliciting in most other sports. By consistently riding, you will strengthen your core equilibrium, abs, back, ankles, legs, hips, muscles and joints.
Skateboarding involves a lot of balance and body awareness. This will come in handy in your day-to-day life. Skaters respond better and faster to unexpected falls than the average person. Falling is 90% of skating. Your body is constantly adapting and reacting to danger, which translates directly outside of skateboarding.
What Are the Most Common Injuries in Skateboarding?
Injuries can happen quickly with skating. One second, you’re cruising towards the sun, the next, you hit a pebble and eat crap. There are lots of situations that can cause many sorts of injuries. Here are the most common ones you might encounter in your skateboarding journey.
Scratches and Bruises
Like in many other disciplines, skating involves taking hits and beatings to progress. The difference is the hits won’t come from an opponent but from your own deck. As a result, scratches and bruises will be quite frequent. You can ease the pain with some ice if it really hurts.
The areas of your body you will hit the most are your ankles and shins. These last ones hurt so bad, and are so despised by skaters, that they have their own nickname: “shinners”.
Heel Bruise occurs when you lose balance in the air and land heel first; either directly on the ground, or on your deck. It is one of the most debilitating – although not severe – injury in skateboarding. It can keep you away from your board for quite some time, depending on the severity of the injury and the height of the fall.
Heal them like you would a sprained ankle: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. If you still can’t put weight on your heel after a few days, go see a doctor.
Hot pocket is the slang used among riders to refer to the upwards hyper extension of the ankle, when the toes bend too much towards the shin. The pain usually appears after you land with too much of your body weight forward. It will last only a couple minutes at first but can become much more problematic when recurring, or when done down some height.
There isn’t any secret formula to heal hot pockets. Let your foot rest and put some ice on it the first few days. Don’t do any running and try to limit your walks to the minimum.
After that, do some stretching exercises of the ankle every day until you don’t feel any pain. If you’ve not regained full mobility after a few weeks, consult an osteopath.
Skateboarding causes a lot of traumas on the ankles. A sprained ankle is the typical skateboarder’s injury. I don’t think I’ve met a long-time skater who hasn’t rolled his ankle at least once.
There are 2 principal ways you’re going to roll your ankle: landing with your foot half on the board half on the ground or directly landing ankle first on the concrete. There are many other ways you can roll your ankle. It can happen for loss of balance, hesitation, last-minute decision change, or just bad luck.
You should always go see your doctor when you’ve sprained your ankle. You might need an X-Ray to see if bones and ligaments attached are still intact. Or some pain-killers, even.
Broken Wrist & Fingers
After the feet, the hands are the second body part protecting you in your fall. It’s not rare to land badly and get to feel a choc in your wrist. I carried a cracked wrist for a year, because I wouldn’t stop skating and kept falling back on it. That’s exactly why you might have seen so many skaters riding with only one wrist guard. Be sensible. Don’t do that. Go see a doctor, wait for the time prescribe to heal. Or else you might regret it a few years later.
Because of the repeated chocs and slams you will put your body through, you may experience some back discomfort after some time skating. It may originate from the offset posture skateboarding leaves you with if you’re not vigilant.
Back problems can arrive quickly. Especially if you have bad habits and lack of care for your body. I won’t praise enough the importance of stretching after every session.
Back pain is no joke. You should consult a specialist if it persists. And go every now and again, even if you’re not hurt to do check-ups.
Is Skateboarding Bad for Your Knees?
Riding a skateboard isn’t bad for the knees per se. Quite on the contrary. The intensive solicitation of the knees skateboarding requires improve the mobility of your joints and strengthen the muscles around the ligaments which prevent knee .
When you attack some heights, whether doing airs on ramps or jumping down gaps, it can become pretty hard on the knees and cause arthritis at a younger age.
Not as frequent as the sprained ankle, the knee sprain is a much more serious injury.
It can occur in multiple scenarios (doing the split, getting your foot caught in an obstacle, …). A sprain knee is usually more debilitating than a sprain ankle and result in longer recovery time, reeducation, and might even require surgery. Not much to say here, it automatically requires medical care.
Why Do My Feet Hurt When I Skate?
As a skater, your feet are your primary working tools. They must endure many hits and can become painful if you don’t take care of them enough. Aside from the exercises I’ve mentioned above that will help solidify them and reduce the chances of injury, feet pain can originate from wearing inadequate skate shoes.
Shoes don’t match your foot type
Let’s start with the most frequent case here, shall we? Some people have wide feet while some have thin feet, but shoe size are the same for everyone. This might not be too problematic when wearing sneakers, but when you skate you want your shoes to fit your feet the best possible.
For example, Nike SB shoes are tight and notoriously disliked by skater with wide feet. Another thing that might cause foot pain is if your shoe tongue doesn’t stay in place. This can arrive when riding cheap shoes.
Thin shoes have become the norm nowadays. They offer better board feel than the big puffy shoes, allowing to do flip tricks with ease. This comes at a cost, though.
They protect less your feet from your board hitting you. If the top of your feet hurt, look for thicker shoes to avoid the discomfort and the pain getting worse. We don’t want it to turn into a foot condition.
The stock insoles you get when buying fresh skate shoes might not protect your feet well enough. If you feel pain in the sole of your feet, I’d recommend investing in some impact reduction insoles.
If you don’t have the money for, you can double up the insoles by taking some of other pairs. Most time though, the stock insoles won’t be protecting you that much and you will be better off switching them against impact reduction soles like FP Insoles. You can also get molded to your feet ones from a podiatrist.
How to Prevent Skateboard Injuries
There isn’t a secret formula that will prevent you from being hurt. Skating is a trial-and-error process. You will fall. You will shed blood; and you will get hurt. There’s no way around it. But there are techniques to minimize the amount of pain you’ll feel and the gravity of your injuries.
I won’t repeat the generic advice like “skate within your abilities” and “take it slow”. Here are some actionable things you can try to reduce your risks of injury.
Learn How to Fall Correctly
This is something I don’t see mentioned a lot in the community, even though I think it’s one of the key factors that will keep you fit and injury-free. I won’t enter too many details here, but here is the quick summary of what to do and what not to do.
- Go with the fall, not against it. Keep up with your momentum and roll out of the bail, don’t stop yourself, that’s when injuries happen.
- Land toes first, avoid landing on your heels at all cost.
- Bend your knees and arms to limit the impact and avoid transmitting the vibrations to your back. Aim for your flan after landing on your feet.
- Speed is your best friend. Although it might seem scary when you’re just starting out, the most speed and momentum you have, the less likely you are to feel the impact and get injured.
Pro tip: You can practice falling by catapulting yourself into grass, or any other soft surfaces, until you feel comfortable falling on concrete. This way, you condition your brain to react appropriately when you’re about to eat sh*t.
Use Proprioception to Strengthen your Ankles
I’ve sprained my ankles more time than I can count. As a result, I’ve probably visited my physio more times than my grandparents in the last few years. One thing I’ve taken from these: balance board is a lifesaver for regaining ankle mobility and overall balance.
See, when you sprain your ankle you damage the ligaments, whether they over-extend or rip entirely. It will for sure weaken your ankle stability even when healed.
A way to counter this is to do proprioception exercises by focusing on contracting the muscles around the Malleolus. These micro muscles will contract if your ankle goes the wrong way and help protect the ligaments. They will stop a lot of sprained ankles.
Doing regular 10 minutes session on your balance board improves your core strength, mobilizing the abs and back muscles and, of course, the micro muscles around the ankles. This will help manual and ledge skating tremendously. A win-win, really.
Warm-Up and Stretches
It is important to start your session slowly with a proper warmup routine. Some skaters like to do some jumping jacks and stretches before stepping on their board. Some prefer to cruise around the park to get their legs and ankles going. Either way, you want to avoid going ham right away and take an unexpected slam while still cold.
Go for a quick warm-up and from there, start your session smoothly.
You should always end your session with stretches. To prevent sore muscles, you want to establish a quick circuit. I’d recommend focusing on the legs and back region. Hamstrings, hip and Adductor stretches are my go-to. You might need to do some for the arms depending on the session.
If you want to keep skating for long, just take the habit of spending these last 10 minutes stretching. You can do it at home if you don’t feel like stretching in front of everyone at the park. Just try not to skip them too much. The older “you” is thanking you.
If you want to do the bare minimum and optimize your skateboarding work-out, focus on the abs and back areas; to improve your balance, resist better to chocs and avoid back pain.
Static plank, side plank, crunches, select a few exercises you like and make it a 10 minutes circuit. Do that 2-3 times a week at a minimum, and you will be in great shape to shred.
If you want to go further, you can work on your leg strength to gain better pop and explosiveness on your board. Leg presses and squats are great starting points. You can also do a full-body workout or start swimming if you want to feel proper-fit.
How to Recover From Skateboarding
Ever since I started going to the gym and became stronger, I really noticed a difference. I went from feeling sore the next day to just some minor muscle discomfort. Sometimes I am completely recovered the next day if I get enough sleep.
Recovering from skateboarding has to do with the following factors:
- Your overall fitness
- Your age
- Nutrition, do you eat healthy?
- The amount of sleep you get
- Rest, take your time to recover
I would really recommend doing exercises regularly when you get older. This will help you to recover much faster and you can deal better with slams.
Is Riding a Skateboard a Good Exercise?
Skateboarding can be an amazing way to get back into exercising. For most of us, skating is a lot more fun than running or going to the gym. And you can lose 400 to 800 calories an hour doing so depending on your weight and physical shape.
If you get into it and start learning tricks, chances are you’ll spend way more time and sweat into your sessions. Here are some other physical benefits of skating regularly:
- increased energy and stamina
- weight reduction and muscle gain
- reduced cholesterol
- decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases
Although, skateboarding isn’t a complete body work-out. If you want to be in amazing shape, I recommend completing your skating with some upper-body and core exercise. Swimming is the perfect complement, as water makes for a great workout without being traumatizing for your muscles.
If the pool isn’t an option for you, you can do some lifting. No need to head straight to the gym or invest in some expensive materials. Just buy a gym carpet and find your abs, back, push-up and pull-up routine.
Is Skateboarding Good for Mental Health?
Like any other form of exercise, skateboarding will make your brain release dopamine, which will improve your mental health. Here are a few benefits of exercising regularly:
- improves quality of sleep and overall mood
- increases self-esteem and self-efficacy and sense of worth
- alleviates depression and social withdrawal
But more than the medical benefits, skateboarding teaches you value. Perseverance, patience, determination, courage, creativity, self-confidence which translate into your personal and professional life.
Skating also gives you a new outlook on your environment. This might help people who overthink and/or ruminate a lot. Skateboarding makes you more mindful and aware of your surroundings, or else you risk getting hurt.
Skateboarding is a welcoming community. It allows you to connect to other people and make friends, no matter the language barrier. No matter the social, cultural, or age differences. We are all the same. Skaters.