Skateboarding is a great sport but safety often comes second. Like any other sport, there’s risk involved. There’s a social stigma about skateboarding being dangerous, but in fact, it’s not that bad.
Skateboarding isn’t any more dangerous than other sports according to scientific studies, there is a risk of injury which can be prevented by taking the right precautions. Wear protective gear, stick with the basics, and consider learning from a professional skateboard instructor.
Whether your an older skateboarder, downhiller, longboarder or your kids love to skateboard, making sure you get home in one piece is vital. Of course, you can’t force everything, random events happen, pebbles will find you and cause a dead stop and weather conditions to influence the odds. This may sound dramatic but 90% of the time you fall and get back up, just a little scratch. It’s all part of the game.
- Skateboarding Injuries and Research
- Skateboarding Safety Tips
Skateboarding Injuries and Research
Like any other sport, you run a certain risk to get injured. Skateboarding is no less safe if you take the proper steps to protect yourself. According to research by the National Safety Council 125,145 skaters were treated in emergency rooms after suffering an injury while skateboarding in 2015.
Younger people between the ages of 14 to 24 count for over half over the injuries. One third between the ages of 5 and 14.
It’s not just the newbies that get injured, even experienced skateboarders fall off their boards. Newcomers take up to one-third of the total injuries.
Don’t be alarmed by the numbers. If you are a concerned parent or want to start skateboarding this might put you off. Skateboarding is sitting at place eight when it comes to injuries. Sports like football, bicycling and basketball are in the top three. Keep in mind that most injuries can be prevented by wearing protection.
If you’re familiar with the sport you won’t be surprised that most of the accidents are caused by irregular surfaces and rocks, I hate rocks. It’s usually wrists, elbows, and ankles that suffer trauma. Let’s show some statistics from research done by the American Sports Data, Inc. The data comes from A Comprehensive Study of Sports Injuries in the U.S.
So skateboarding isn’t dangerous according to this data but it seems strange that out of 13k participant only 400 got injured. Unfortunately, the original research is nowhere to be found. Other sports seem to be far more dangerous. If you like some more data take a look at this research. Here’s the conclusion (the research is from 1998).
This study is the first to relate skateboarding and other sports injuries to participation exposures. We found that skateboarding is a comparatively safe sport; however, increased rates of injury are occurring in adolescent and young adult skateboarders.
The most common injuries are musculoskeletal; the more serious injuries resulting in hospitalization typically involve a crash with a motor vehicle.
Here’s a list of the common skateboard injuries:
- Rolled ankles
- Groin injuries
- Broken bone
- Swollen elbows (swelbows)
- Painful joints
- Deep cuts and lacerations
If you look at the research from AAP you’ll get don’t really get a different view of the risk involved. The AAP shared some data from 2000 from January till August about skateboarders visiting the hospital. Though the sport was more popular back then. It’s mostly young kids under 15 years old, they made up for about 90% of the visits.
This makes sense as there aren’t many girls that skateboard, unfortunately). 50,000 skateboarders visited the emergency room and about 1500 were hospitalized. They don’t mention how many skateboarders in total we’re active in 2002 but according to Wikipedia, about 10 million people under 18 participated in the sport in 2000.
- Compared to rollerblading, skateboard injuries happen twice as often and are often more severe.
- Basketball accidents happen twice as often compared to skateboarding.
- 38% of all skateboarding injuries occur in the ankle, wrist, and face.
- About 5% of injuries are severe, most severe accidents involve traffic.
- Most injuries are less serious (this also includes broken bones).
- The more severe injuries happen when skaters try to perform tricks.
- One to be mindful of is small kids, they get the most severe head injuries under the age of 5.
So we have some data, but of course, most injuries don’t get reported. You don’t visit the ER for abrasion or a bruised knee. I could do some calculations but it would be a ballpark figure.
When comparing the AAP data to the number of skateboarders, the sport still seems safe. Many of these injuries can be prevented by wearing proper protective gear.
Skateboarding Safety Tips
Make sure you master the basics before you do anything you might regret. You’ll need to feel comfortable, your skateboard should feel like a natural extension of your body. Mastery is an art and it takes time.
- Be considerate of other skaters, especially the younger ones.
- Stay at your level, don’t try stuff when you’re not ready. Don’t let your friends pressure you, I’ve seen this go wrong way too often.
- Don’t just blindly go for a trick, make sure it’s your turn to avoid a collision. A full-on collision is double the speed and someone will get hurt.
- Stay in shape, your physical condition matters. The more you weigh the harder you fall.
- Don’t wear headphones, seriously why?
- Empty your pockets, even your keys.
Wear Protective Gear to Prevent Injury
You can come a long way preventing injury by using proper equipment. Worn-out shoes and pads that don’t fit properly, old decks with sharp edges can put yourself at risk. I got some nasty cuts from sharp worn-out tails that found their way to my ankles, believe me, it hurts.
Depending on your skill level you can take precautions by wearing protective gear like wrist guards, a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads. If you want to know which protective gear you need, go through my recommendations.
When your kid picks up skateboarding make sure they wear protective gear at all times. Kids are very vulnerable, overconfident, and don’t pay attention to their surroundings.
Inspect your equipment before you go for a ride, it only takes a few seconds.
- Check if your board for sharp and jagged edges from wear and tear.
- Make sure your trucks are in good condition if your kingpin breaks your truck will fall off.
- Keep your grip in good condition and replace if it becomes slippery.
- Check your bearings, a broken bearing can block your wheels.
- Make sure the wheels are properly attached to your trucks.
- Wear proper shoes with soles that can take an impact, but still feel like you can control your board.
It takes time to get used to wearing protective gear but once you’re used to it you’ll feel comfortable again. If you’re a seasoned skateboarder and in your twenties, you probably don’t think about long-term consequences. If you speak to some older skaters you’ll probably hear stories about damaged ankles, painful knees, dislocated shoulders, and fractures.
I have to admit I don’t always wear all my pads. This is only in case I just want to cruise or do stuff that never goes wrong. I just stick with the basics. As soon as there is a risk involved, I make sure I’ll wear protective gear.
The last thing you want is a head injury. The most severe traumas come from head injuries, often caused by traffic incidents. A helmet is perhaps the most crucial part of keeping you safe. There’s this grey mass people call a brain embedded in your skull.
Use your brain and wear a helmet, it’s best to get one specifically designed for skateboarding. Take care of your helmet, don’t throw it around! If you suffer a hard blow to the helmet, replace it.
Wrist guards prevent breaking your wrist, nasty scratches, and bruises. Wrist guards are really helpful when you fall down when you aren’t able to roll. They take away most of the impact, I even broke a wrist guard when I fell down. If you also wear knee pads you can just slide until you stop, get back on your board and continue. You can thank me later.
Ever heard of swelbows? That’s what a swollen elbow is, really painful and preventable. You’re more likely to fracture an elbow without elbow pads. If you have multiple accidents where your elbows are involved you might regret this for the rest of your life.
Protect your knees and wear pads. Knee pads will absorb shocks and are also helpful in developing falling techniques. Try to fall on your knee pads and slide.
As a street skater, you might feel limited in your movement wearing knee pads. I still recommend knee pads, if you really hate them you could also consider soft knee pads and wear them under your pants. You can even only wear one. place it on the side you usually fall.
There are other pads that offer more comfort you just have to get used to them. If you suffered scrapes just wait for it to heal before you put on knee pads.
Skaters don’t wear knee pads because they restrict movement if you’re not used to them. If you look at the data most of the injuries seem preventable but many skaters don’t take precautions. Particular street skaters feel uncomfortable wearing protective gear, but vert skaters usually do wear knee pads.
This is because the only and probably safest way to fall is by sliding down on your knees. Most of the time they wear helmets because of the heights involved. Many street skaters also refuse to wear head protection, mainly because it doesn’t look cool. Head injury, however, can be serious and at a younger age. Skateboarders often don’t think about the consequences.
Wear Proper Clothing
Don’t skate in skinny jeans, this limits your movement and I can’t imagine feeling comfortable. Wear sturdy pants that offer some protection when you have to bail, jeans are suitable but you also might consider other types of thick cotton-like canvas or herringbone. You need some comfort during your session so materials that breathe are recommended.
After a long session, your feet may become gnarly so wear proper socks that can breathe. After a day of skateboarding, your feet will smell gross and good socks prevent blisters and bad smell. Wet cotton socks are the worst as they get soggy which causes inconveniences like blisters. Socks with extra support for toes and heels are recommended but I haven’t tried this out myself.
Wearing shoes with thin soles is a bad idea. You’ll need shoes that can absorb impact to prevent heel injury. Heel injury is a nasty one and healing takes a long time. You’ll need to find the right balance between shoes that can take an impact and the sense of control. If your shoes are too tight you’ll block the blood vessels and your toes will get numb.
Wearing your shoes too loose will increase the risk in sprained ankles. There are shoes out there that offer some ankle protection, like the old school vans SK8-HI. High top shoes are useful when you need to bail and your board decides to haunt your ankles. Here’s how you pick the right shoes.
Use a High-Quality Skateboard
Toy skateboards like the ones you can buy at Walmart or Target are dangerous. They consist of cheap hardware and can break within the hour. A professional skateboard is reliable and made of quality components.
- A skateboard deck should consist of 7 layers of compressed Candian maple wood
- Wheels of quality produced urethane which prevents them from breaking apart
- Solid trucks that can withstand impacts like Thunder truck for example.
- Quality bearings that help your wheels spin which supports your balance.
- Proper grip tape that prevents you from slipping.
Skateboarding Safety Tips for Kids
Skateboarding is popular among kids, as a dad of a 6-year old I don’t take any risks when we go out skateboarding. If your child wants to start skateboarding there are a couple of things you should know.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids shouldn’t be skateboarding before 6 years old. At the ages of 6-10, it’s strongly recommended to supervise your kids at all times. I’m just in the process of learning my 6 your old how to skateboard but I always stay close and make sure he wears protective gear.
Kids are very fragile and have a higher risk of serious injurious at a young age. I strongly advise to let your kid wear full protective gear.
Skateboarding kids are more at risk to get injured because:
- They have a higher gravity center.
- Less developed motor skills.
- Kids can be overconfident.
- Less aware of their surroundings.
- Balance is underdeveloped, which is obvious if you are a parent yourself. Kids also haven’t developed falling techniques which makes them more prone to injury.
Parents should supervise their kids below the age of 10 at all times. Avoid cheap skateboards and get a quality skateboard for your child. A good skateboard is reliable, won’t break on the first day and helps kids finding their balance. A quality skateboard outlasts a toy skateboard 10 times. You can get a decent setup starting at $60.
You’ll also need protective gear. A helmet is the most important as kids at a younger age statistically tend to injure their heads more often.
Get the Basics Right and Learn to Balance
It’s essential to get the basics before you move on and start learning tricks. Obviously, you need to learn how to ride. Whether you use a normal skateboard, longboard or penny board, balance is everything. Smaller skateboards are better suited to learn the basics as they are smaller and easier to correct.
Longboards, for example, are less agile and allow for greater speeds. If you pick up too much speed and don’t know how to slow down, you’re gonna have a bad time. Avoid hills and busy streets, find a quiet spot without too much traffic to reduce risk.
Practice on flat surfaces and while riding inspect the area for pebbles, cracks, twigs or anything that can block your wheels. You’ll run into something eventually, that blocking sound is something you will remember. If you fall, try to roll to reduce impact.
If your older and just starting out you take less risk but get the basics right before you do anything radical.
- Get private lessons if you can afford it and practice in between sessions.
- First time on a board? Put your skateboard on a patch of grass, your board won’t go running off without you.
- Take gentle steps and avoid speed.
- Learn how to break by using your foot and drag it on the ground.
This one is often overlooked but weather conditions increase risk. Winter and autumn are often less suitable to go out and ride because of snow, ice, and rain (depending on your region). Don’t go skating in wet conditions, rain makes surfaces slippery and icy roads can be dangerous. The top surface of your skateboard can become slippery (grip) and so will your shoes.
Your bearings will wear out much faster and don’t get me started about sand finding its way into your bearings. Fallen leaves are another risk factor, those can cause a nasty fall.
In general, it’s better to avoid these weather conditions, more so if you’re just starting out.
Visit your local indoor skatepark, it might feel a bit embarrassing but parks are great to learn the basics. Yes, there are 10-year-old kids that are ripping it but don’t let that discourage you. You don’t have to be a pro skater to enjoy yourself!
If you’re still too embarrassed you can always grab your gaming console and play Tony Hawk or something (is this still thing?). Lastly, watch videos, this will help you to improve by studying techniques.
- Avoid wet conditions.
- Stay away from leaves and twigs.
- Be aware of icy roads.
- Make sure the top surface of your deck and your shoes stay dry.
Your Physical Condition
If your overweight or a little on the heavier side, skateboarding will be a little bit harder. Don’t think you can’t learn skateboarding if you’re out of shape, in fact, I encourage it! You might react a bit slower than the average person and you’ll fall harder, but skateboarding is a great and fun way to get back into shape. If you’re enjoying yourself and lose a little bit of weight, all the better.
You might break a deck a little more often than the lightweights so pick a board that’s a little bit larger in size. Obviously get a pro deck and make sure it’s tough and strong.
Avoid speed at all costs! If you don’t know what you are doing you’ll end up in the hospital. The more you weigh, the more momentum you’ll build up and gravity will do the rest.
Try to land correctly, avoid the center and nose/tail of your deck as it will snap your deck in two. Even skinny guys have this problem so don’t worry too much about it.
I’ve seen all body types. Skinny tall skaters, heavy skaters, short and stocky it doesn’t matter really.
Safe Places to Skateboard
Probably the best place to skate is your local skatepark. The surfaces are smooth and you won’t surprise anyone. Indoor skateparks are even better. Obstacles are usually made out of wood which is way more pleasant than concrete in case you decide to crash.
Avoid crowds especially when you’re just a beginner. Not only will you endanger the crowd, but you’ll also annoy people and some might get angry.
Be aware of other skaters and be considerate, practice complex tricks away from crowded spots. If a skateboard comes flying you can seriously injure someone.
When I visit my local mini ramp I always inspect the surface for glass, screw, rocks, leaves, basically anything that might leave a nasty cut or could cause a dead stop. Indoor skateparks are usually safer because it’s supervised by people that know the sport.
- Go to your local skatepark in the morning
- Avoid traffic and crowded places
- Inspect the area for rocks, glass twigs etc to avoid dead stops
Learn How to Fall
If you’re just starting out you’re going to become familiar with Newton’s law of universal gravitation. Learning how to fall can mean the difference between just a bruise or a nasty fracture. Now some give up skateboarding before it becomes serious.
For those eager to learn cool tricks or just want to master the longboard you’ll need to learn some techniques to reduce the impact from falling. This may sound easier said than done but you’ll need to relax when you fall, try to roll to reduce the impact and divide the energy.
There are different types of skateboard falls that you’ll encounter. Usually, a simple bail will get you safe, just jump off and run away from your deck. Slams are the worst, you’ll lose control and impact the ground.
- Bail if you feel like something goes wrong, better safe than sorry.
- Avoid using your hands to try to break a fall unless you wear guards.
- Try to relax, but that’s easier said than done.
- Try to roll, land on your back or shoulder and tuck in your elbows.
Skateboarding isn’t Dangerous
Skateboarding is not dangerous if you prepare properly. More people get injured falling from ladders each year than skaters ending up in the hospital. Falling is part of the game and most of the time it’s nothing serious.
According to several studies, skateboarding isn’t any more dangerous than other sports. Though this seems strange to me as a skateboarder myself, the data is there. When I think about it, in the 15 years I’ve skated I got many injuries but only visited the doctor twice.
This is anecdotal of course, but maybe most of the injuries aren’t just serious enough. It could very well be that skaters get minor injuries more often than other sports, but they’re too insignificant to visit the ER. Skateboarders do fall often, but you just get up and go on.
Make sure you are at least a little in shape, avoid rain and use quality equipment. Don’t cheap out, good gear and components last way longer than inferior equipment.
It takes some time before you can ride a skateboard comfortably and requires dedication. Skateboarding is fun and a great way to make new friends. So go out there, gear up and enjoy yourself.
- Skateboarding: more dangerous than roller skating or in-line skating (1998 – Osberg JS1, Schneps SE, Di Scala C, Li G.).
- Skateboard-Associated Injuries: Participation-Based Estimates and Injury Characteristics (October 2002 – Volume 53 – Issue 4 – p 686-690, Kyle, Susan B. PhD; Nance, Michael L. MD; Rutherford, George W. Jr., MS; Winston, Flaura K. MD, PhD).
- Skateboards: Are they really perilous? A retrospective study from a district hospital (July 2008 – Ulfin Rethnam, Rajam Sheeja Yesupalan, Amit Sinha).
- Skateboarding injuries: An updated review (May 2015 – Kristin M. Shuman, Michael C. Meyers).
- http://www.familiesafield.org/pdf/injury_page.pdf (excerpt from A comprehensive study of sports injuries in the U.S. – American Sports Data, Inc.)
I’m an aged skateboarder and I still shred responsibly. I started skateboarding 25 years ago but also love surfing, snowboarding, or anything that involves a board.