How Dangerous Is Skateboarding And How To Reduce The Risk?
“How dangerous is skateboarding?” is a question that pops up in the mind of many people when they watch magnificent performances from world-renowned skateboarders like Tony Alva.
There is a reason skateboarding still enjoys its popularity and attracts more players, but it's also easy to see why this sport has been banned in many countries during its long history. The real answer below may come as a surprise to you.
Is Skateboarding Dangerous?
If not done properly, yes.
Data from the National Safety Council sheds some light on how this exciting sport could cause more accidents and injuries than most people might think.
In 2017 alone, more than 100,000 people suffered from severe injuries while skateboarding and needed treatments in emergency departments. And almost half of them happened to people under 25.
Why is skateboarding so dangerous? Skateboarding requires a hard surface like concrete so the board can roll on smoothly, and they are the surfaces you want your body to fall on. But it’s not always the case.
The huge risk of causing serious skateboard injuries and landing riders in emergency rooms comes from the extreme nature of skateboarding, especially when they decide to ride on open roads.
How dangerous is longboarding compared to regular skateboarding? Unlike dedicated sporting and recreational areas like skate parks, the streets introduce many more obstacles to the ride, such as light posts and vehicles.
And not every rider has prepared themself for the awareness and reaction time needed to deal with unforeseen situations in their way.
That said, riding in a skate park doesn't mean a completely safe ride every time either.
Many are attracted to skateboarding for the exact reason that it always possesses the element of risk, which they try to beat by shunning safety equipment. These reckless actions are common even when they're forbidden by the law applying to public parks.
Young adults and children also put themselves in danger by disregarding protective gear and carrying out moves beyond their skills due to peer pressure.
Common Skateboarding Injuries
While every part of your body could get hurt if something wrong happens to your ride, some injuries occur more commonly than others.
If face injuries are possible, then your head is prone to danger due to skateboarding accidents too.
Closed injuries, skull fractures, blunt trauma, and concussions are some of the serious head injuries people with improper safety equipment might face. A fall from a skateboard could be hard enough to fracture their head or even make them lose consciousness.
Luckily, head injuries are not very common, and there is only a remote possibility they could happen to prudent riders.
Hand, Wrist, or Shoulder Injuries
The injury that has the highest chance to happen is a broken wrist, and all it takes is a brief loss of balance.
Beginners to skateboarding usually haven't mastered their balance on a board, which could only be built over time with practice and confidence.
Even experienced professionals still fall from time to time, so it's easy to see why a newcomer may lose balance often and hurt their wrists when they still haven't built a strong foundation.
The instinct when people stumble on a board is to extend their arms to brace the fall, protecting their face and head from traumatic injuries.
While it's extremely important to protect your head, the force of the impact could bend your hand backward and stretch the ligaments connecting the hand bones and wrist.
The best outcome you could expect is a sprained wrist or some small tears in your shoulder. But when luck is not on your side, completely broken ligaments could be your problem.
Ankles are also where many injuries due to skateboarding happen, including broken ankles or ankle sprains.
There are several ways you could hurt your ankles. The most common scenario is when you perform a complicated trick, and your feet slip off the board.
Your ankles would have to be subjected to a huge amount of pressure suddenly, which could make them roll awkwardly.
A constant impact is another mechanism of ankle injuries.
Elevated areas and stairs are popular places for skateboarders to jump up and down in advanced movements. They are a treat to the eyes of observers but don't have a nice impact on the rider's ankles, leading to fractures or sprains.
Even if you could stick your arms out in time, there remains a big enough chance a hard slam leaves your face with a broken jaw and nose (or at least some minor cuts and scrapes.)
These accidents are not rare, and the most common culprit is the hard surface that your face lands on.
But your own board - the best friend of any skateboard rider - could betray you and fly up toward your face, especially if you try to stomp it hard.
Jumping down rails, ledges, stairs, and other elevated areas is also the leading cause of long bone fractures for riders.
Skateboarding Injury Causes
Injuries in this extreme sport may happen for a variety of reasons.
Those just in the first few weeks of learning skateboarding are the most vulnerable to falls and injuries.
Age is a big factor here. Skateboarding is a common hobby plenty of parents want to teach their children and let them enjoy during their free time.
Kids under 16 years old usually make up a huge number of head injury incidents, many of which wear headphones while skateboarding.
The lack of proper skills and experience rarely stops newcomers from attempting difficult tricks. But failing to do so could make them pay an expensive price.
Skidding, total loss of control and collision with other objects and vehicles are common sources of skateboarding injuries. Depending on the type of fall and the speed at which the body hits the surface, the degree of injuries differs widely.
Unfamiliar Locations And Surfaces
A skate park is the safest area and usually the focal point of a local skateboarding community. As a purpose-built facility, it shields skaters away from the dangers of surprise obstacles and traffic.
The advantages of riding your board in these supervised areas are limitless. You have access to enclosed spaces with appropriate regulations, routine structural inspection, regularly maintained surfaces, and good lighting.
Outside of skate parks, you could run into several unwelcome obstacles, such as pedestrian traffic, buses, and cars, that could be hard to get around safely at all times.
Irregularities in skateboarding surfaces (such as gaps, potholes, and big stones) could lead to loss of balance and eventually fall as well.
Despite those risks and the existence of designated areas like skate parks, many skateboarders still choose public roads as the place to practice and perform their tricks.
Lack Of Protective Equipment
Even when a fall does happen, proper safety gear could go a long way towards protecting your body and reducing the severity of injuries.
But if they’re so important, why don’t skateboarders wear helmets?
Many skateboarders, even professionals, feel uncomfortable and annoyed to skate with a helmet and pads on. The personal image of a skateboarder (the “cool” factor) also plays a huge role in this decision.
This cause may come as a surprise for many, but alcohol use is a big risk factor in skateboarding. Many skilled riders overestimate their abilities and “crack open a cold one (or more)” before hitting the streets, leading to poor judgments.
They usually attempt fancy stunts and risky maneuvers at high speeds at night, and needless to say, severe injuries have occurred a lot in those circumstances.
Skateboarding Safety Tips
These recommendations primarily come from how injuries usually happen in skateboarding.
Wear Protective Equipment
Regardless of your age, the type of board you're riding, your level of experience, and especially the amount of external pressure you face, only ride a skateboard if you wear protective gear.
A quality helmet is the wisest investment you could make to protect your body. Buy a product that complies with the safety standard set for skateboarding by independent organizations like the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Your helmet should be both snug and comfortable. Make sure that it's level on your head and doesn't move in any direction once worn on your head.
Another useful tip on reducing the risk of injury is putting slip-resistant soles in your shoes.
Learn To Fall
Even the most cautious skateboarder may still lose balance and fall from their board at one point. And you're better off preparing for those situations.
If you feel yourself starting to lose control over the board, crouch down on it and lower your center of gravity to regain some of the balance.
If you sense an inevitable fall, you could run off the board before it happens.
When you fall, try to land your body with the fleshy parts, not your extended arms. Embrace the fall and roll on your back and shoulder.
Learn To Stop
Controlling your speed with foot braking will come in handy in many risky situations while skateboarding.
Turn your face and chest forward and put the anchor foot in line with the direction of the board.
Focus the weight of your body on this foot without leaning forward or back. At the same time, try to swing out the other leg and keep it straight.
Lower your back leg and apply some pressure with your shoe to make contact with the ground. Increase this pressure to slow your board down gradually.
Practice at low speeds first before working up your techniques at a higher pace.
Choose The Right Skateboard
The long history of skateboarding and its huge community has resulted in a wide variety of skateboards available on the market. But you can't just buy a random model and expect it to work well.
Do your homework before committing to this purchase, especially if you're a beginner.
Inspect Your Board
Even a top-quality may lose some of its durability over time. Make sure to check your skateboard to see if it's still in good working order.
Common issues you should look for are sharp edges, loosen wheels, and cracks in the board. Have your board repaired before using it again unless you want it to snap in the midst of the ride.
Skateboarding is an exciting sport that demonstrates how confident and skillful the skaters are when performing complex tricks. But it also could bring unwelcome falls and injuries.
How dangerous is skateboarding? You are likely to put yourself in harm's way while riding recklessly. Following some basic steps could make skateboarding less dangerous and more enjoyable for beginners and professionals alike.