Common Skateboarding Injuries and Their Prevention

by Eli Reece

Common Skateboarding Injuries and Their Prevention

Once considered a hobby of the rambunctious slacker, skateboarding has evolved into a commercialized industry filled with celebrity athletes, televised tournaments, and a thriving, diverse culture. It is no longer an underground activity; it is now firmly rooted in the world of mainstream sport.

The popularity of skateboarding has been continuously climbing since its inception, and alongside this rise in popularity comes a rise in skateboarding injuries. David Nedeff, MD, a specialist in knee and shoulder surgery as well as sports medicine, states, “Classified as an extreme sport, skateboarding inherently carries with it significant risk for serious and extreme injuries, with approximately 70,000 injuries per year requiring visits to the emergency department.”   

What are common skateboard related injuries?

A prerequisite for skateboarding is the need for a hard surface that the board can roll on such as concrete or pavement, and obviously, these surfaces are not the softest of materials for our bodies to land on. Tiffany Pan, MD, a hand, wrist, and elbow surgeon, shares, “Many skateboard related injuries occur when the rider loses balance, falls off the skateboard onto the hard surface, and improperly braces him or herself using extended extremities such as the arms and legs.” The severity of injuries can range from cuts and bruises to sprains, strains, and broken bones. Examples include

  • Wrist sprains/fractures.
  • Ankle sprains/fractures.
  • Broken nose or jaw bone.
  • Concussions or fractured skulls.

What is the starting age recommendation?

“With its high level of popularity in younger individuals, children under the age of 15 make up almost 1/3 of all skateboarding injuries per year,” explains Brick Campbell, MD, a knee, elbow, shoulder surgeon, and sports medicine specialist. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not advise children under the age of 5 to ride a skateboard, and children from ages 6 to 10 should be under close supervision from an adult when skating.

Skateboarding poses a more significant risk to younger children due to their:

  • Higher center of gravity.
  • Lack of more developed coordination.
  • Slower reaction times.
  • Overestimation of ability and skill.
  • Poor judgement of barriers, ramps, traffic, or their own speed levels.

How can I prevent skateboarding injuries?

Protective equipment

It may not be cool to wear pads within skateboarding culture, but it’s also not very cool or fun to have a serious injury that requires a hospital visit. Wearing protective equipment will significantly reduce your risk of both minor and major injuries.

Helmets

  • A properly fitting helmet should be worn at all times.
  • Helmets need to be replaced at least every 5 years, or when they are damaged/outgrown.
  • The helmet should be worn flat on your head, and the bottom edge over your forehead should be parallel to the ground.
  • Should feature side-straps that create a “V” shape over each ear and have a tightly fastened buckle under the chin.
  • If fitted correctly, the helmet should not move in any direction when shaking your head and should not impair movement or visibility.

Other Gear

  • Before hopping on your board, make sure to empty your pockets of all hard and sharp objects such as keys or phones.
  • Wrist guards will help support the wrist when bracing yourself for a fall.
  • Knee and elbow pads will lessen the severity of cuts and scrapes while also preventing gravel/ramp burns when sliding along a hard surface.
  • Skate shoes should be worn thanks to their slip resistant soles.

Finding the best skate spot

The highest risk and worst possible area for anyone to skate is a spot near heavy motor vehicle activity.  Find a location to practice your board skills where it is impossible to collide with motor vehicles, bikers, or pedestrians.

Before selecting a spot, scan the area for any irregular surfaces such as cracks, rocks, and debris that might “catch” your wheels. If any removable debris such as rocks or sticks is found, do your best to sweep the area clear of these hazards. If it is not possible to clear the surface of debris, look for another spot. Also, if skateboarding at night, make sure that the area is well lit.

Local skate parks are often provided in communities with ramps, bowls, and other obstacles specifically designed with skateboarding in mind. However, the terrain in these parks is often difficult to navigate for the novice skateboarder.

If you are more experienced, be considerate of novice and younger skateboarders. Skate parks often have a natural “traffic flow” that should be followed when riding around the obstacles; help teach beginners this flow and let them have their turn to practice.

Selecting the right board for you

The evolution of skateboarding has brought with it the creation of various styles of riding and various styles of skateboard decks.

Longboards

  • Come in several different shapes and size but generally are 33 inches or longer.
  • Are often used on downhill and flat roads.
  • Great for long-distance transport, maneuverability and stability, going fast, big swooping turns, and a smooth ride.
  • Not great for doing tricks and is not easy to carry around due to its size.

Carvers

  • Similar to a longboard, but the major advantage to this style of board is its shorter length.
  • Are often used on flat streets.
  • Great for short and long-distance transportation, tight turns, a smooth ride, and is easy to carry around thanks to its smaller size.
  • Not great for going fast, maneuverability and stability, or doing tricks.

Double Kicks

  • When you think of a skateboard, this is most likely the type of board that pops into your imagination.
  • Are often used at skate parks and flat roads.
  • Great for doing tricks, short transport, and like the carver is easy to carry around due to its smaller size.
  • Not great for going fast or for traveling long-distances.

Work on Technique

Learn how to fall

Professional skateboarders could also be called professionals at falling.

  • When you feel yourself losing balance, crouch down onto the board to lower your center of gravity and shorten the distance between you and the ground.
  • Try to land on fleshy parts of the body instead of bracing the fall with extended wrists.
  • Remember to relax your body and roll out of the fall.

Learn how to stop

All skateboarders should be experts at controlling their speed.

Utilize the “foot brake.”

  1. Turn your chest and anchor foot, the foot you place on the board when pushing, forward in line with the direction of the board.
  2. Transfer your weight over the center of the anchor foot and swing out your back or “push” leg to the side.
  3. Lower the push leg to the ground and apply slight pressure onto the ground with the sole of your shoe. Apply more and more pressure to slow down faster.

Again, remember that skateboarding is classified as an extreme sport and has a high risk for extreme injury. Be prepared and know what to do in emergency situations such as calling 911 when you or a friend are in need of urgent medical attention from a skateboarding injury.