Rollerblading is one of the most popular and fastest-growing recreational sports. The reasons for its popularity, however, are not only its athletic spirit. The sports provides proven benefits of aerobic fitness. It can serve as an independent and unconventional mode of transportation over short distances for young children.
Again, the sport is great to cross-train for other competitive sports such as roller hockey, artistic skating, speed skating, or endurance events. Reducing equipment cost, increasing exposure opportunities, and several benefits of participation have led the sport to the limelight.
But what about the dangers of rollerblading? With the growing popularity of the sport, the number of reported injuries has also increased over the past years. According to the statistics of 1996, over 76000 children and young teenagers below the age of 21, were reported injured during inline skating and required the care of the emergency department. Almost 14% of the injured participants were novice skaters.
The most common reasons observed for these reported injuries were loss of balance because of debris or road defects, inability to stop, attempt to try a new advanced trick, and speeding out-of-control.
The wrist was observed to be the most common site of rollerblading injuries. Almost two-thirds of these injuries were fractures. The numbers are intimidating enough to emphasize the dangers of rollerblading and the necessity to stay safe.
Rollerblading Safety Statistics
The most prominent danger of rollerblading is to suffer a nasty fall, break a ligament, or experience an injury that is difficult to recover. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), almost 3.4% of all the reported severe sports injuries per 1000 participants come from inline skating [source].
55% of these injured skaters were classified as advanced or intermediate. So, it is not only the amateurs that can suffer an injury. Over 63% of these reported cases of injury come from frequent skaters. However, only 48% of them have ever taken lessons in skating. These injuries were cited at different locations of fall, including the sidewalks, streets, driveways, skate parks, parking lot and even indoor rinks.
In many cases, the proximate cause of fall was a spontaneous loss of balance, an attempt to swerve around a hazard to avoid a collision, striking a stationary obstacle, or striking a moving hazard. Many times, the skaters were fatigued, had poor visibility due to darkness or twilight, become pray to hazardous road conditions, or were rollerblading out of control.
The injuries reported were of different types. Some included wrist fractures, a laceration on the face or chin, spraining a muscle, elbow fractures, ankle sprain, wrist sprain, and fractures in the lower leg. However, the wrist was reported to be the most anatomic site for primary injury. In the majority of cases of reported injuries, skaters were riding without proper safety gear.
How to Get a Good Protective Gear?
According to an estimate by the CPSC, wearing wrist guards alone can eliminate the chances of severe skating injuries to one-third by preventing local gravel burns, absorbing the impact of shock, averting sudden extreme hyperextension, and dissipating the kinetic force by sliding your hand forward on the hard volar plates.
Recent research further emphasizes the effectiveness of protective gear. Wearing proper safety equipment is essential to skate safely. Your protective gear must include a helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads, and knee pads.
Get a Rollerblading Helmet
Helmets are one of the most essential pieces of safety equipment that any skater should have regardless of their skill levels. There are two types of helmets commonly used in rollerblading. These are the skate helmet and the performance helmet [source].
Dome skate helmets are round and shaped like a dome. These are the multi-sports helmets that offer basic protection with the outer shell made of high-impact ABS plastic. An inner shell made of EPS high-density foam or EPP provides real protection to your head. The foams compress on impact to protect your noggin and absorb the impact of fall. These helmets provide better protection to the back of your head because of the proper coverage on the lower back of your naggin.
Performance helmets emphasize on ventilation and aerodynamics more than offering protection. They are light in weight and offer a reduced degree of protection. Confident skaters and pros often use these helmets to secure protection in the event of falls or sudden accidents. These types of helmets are best for cross-trainers and speed skaters who intend to improve their performance.
Rollerblade Helmet Safety Laws
Various international organizations conduct rigorous testing of consumer helmets and accordingly award safety certifications. Rollerblade helmet safety laws may vary from one state to another. However, many states mandate the skaters under a certain age to wear a certified protective helmet at all times during rollerblading. Some other states have laws that require all riders under the age of 18 to wear a CPSC-certified protective helmet at all times.
In case the riders are discovered without a helmet, the penalty ranges from an initial warning to a handsome amount of fine. The penalty charges may increase with every new violation. Remember to buy a helmet that meets CSPC regulations. This implies the helmet must have an EPS protective liner for maximum protection.
Also, replace your helmet after a significant impact because once the foams expand, they do not return back to the original form. Some helmets marketed as multiple-impact helmets can provide protection through multiple impacts. However, these helmets also have their limitations.
Therefore, it is a good practice to replace your helmet after a single severe impact or several minor ones. Some helmets may offer additional features in the form of built-in visors or replaceable liners to enhance performance and improve the fitting.
Buying the Correct Size
It is important to wear a helmet that fits properly. In other words, you should buy a helmet according to the size of your head. The size of the helmets may vary from one brand to another. Analyze the size chart for brand sizing to ensure you pick a helmet that fits your head. You can measure the size of your head by the following steps [source]:
- Wrap a tape measure around your forehead so that it rests over your eyebrows and ears. Do not wrap the measuring tape too loose or too tight. Remember that your helmet will rest a little low on your forehead. Record the circumference in centimeters or inches.
- In case, you do not have a tape measure, you can repeat the step with a string. Wrap the string properly around your head, mark it for your head size, and measure it against the ruler.
- In case, you cannot measure your head anyway, try a helmet by your hat size. Check the size tag on your well-fitting hat to get a rough estimate for the correct size of your skating helmet.
Depending on the brand you choose, a proper fitting rollerblading helmet must have protective padding, should sit low on the forehead, and should not move or shift while rollerblading. Some of the popular rollerblade skate helmets include the Rollerblade Bubble Skating Helmet, which is certified, safe, and fun to wear. It is ideal for young skaters and children to ensure proper head protection.
Another elegant choice is the Rollerblade Downtown Inline Skating Helmet with a classic skate profile including ABS shell and a comfortable EPS foam padding. It has 11 vents and a quick turn-dial adjustment system to ensure proper fit.
Get Elbow and Knee Pads
It is crucial to protect your elbows and knees considering the nature of the sport. Many times, a fall results in the skater landing on the knees or elbows. The sudden impact can sometimes result in serious injuries causing torn ligaments or broken bones. The protection pads for knees and elbows are rated as Level 1 and Level 2 [source].
Level 1 Rated Protective Pads
These are the low-profile pads designed for partial protection against impact. Their construction provides maximum comfort through a good range of motion and maximized airflow. They are light in weight and are adequate for the majority of inline skating activities such as recreational skating, fitness training, marathon workouts, urban skating, and slalom skating. Level 1 protective pads are recommended for all skaters irrespective of their skill levels.
Level 2 Rated Protective Pads
These are necessary for activities involving higher chances of impact or damage due to falls. These types of protective pads are ideal for team sporting events and competitions. Also, these pads are a must for skating activities such as aggressive inline skating that involves tricks and speed skating.
Level 2 rated protective pads have an extended surface area to ensure maximum protection and provide coverage beyond the point of impact. They have large straps. Some may also have sleeves to keep the pads aligned during body movement and offer better protection. The additional padding keeps your body warm thereby offering maximum protection.
In some cases, skaters may observe a limited range of motion. These pads are most recommended for beginners who are most likely to suffer a fall while learning new tricks. Beginners haven’t developed proper balance and are more prone to getting injured.
The difficult part of purchasing knee and elbow pads is to determine the correct size. Different manufacturers may follow different sizing guidelines for knee and elbow pads. Therefore, you should always check the suppliers sizing guidelines over the general recommendation available.
Further, the size of the pads may vary based on your height and body weight. Many people prefer to purchase pads according to their clothing size. For example, people who buy a large size for the shirt pick a large size for the elbow pads. Always check the basic size chart to identify your perfect size for the pads.
In case, the sizes and body type are not uniform, order one size large to ensure proper comfort without restrictions. If your pads seem larger in size, you can always use the adjustable straps to secure them well in place. If the pads don’t move once you secure the strapping and offer flexible maintenance, you should know that you have a perfect pair.
Get a Pair of Wrist Guards
Wrist injuries are most common among skaters due to their natural instinct of using the arms as the first line of defense in case of a fall. If the wrists are not protected well during such contact, they may suffer severe damage [source].
Wrist guards are particularly designed to absorb the impact of falls by sliding and deflecting the energy. Wrist guards fall under two categories that is Level 1 and Level 2 protection range.
Level 1 Protective Pads
Level 1 rated wrist-protection-guards is low-profile pads designed to offer partial protection against impact. They offer maximum comfort through a good range of motion and effective airflow. They are lighter in weight and offer adequate support for maximum inline skating activities for all skill levels.
Level 2 Protective Pads
These pads provide maximum coverage beyond the point of impact. Again, they have large straps and may have sleeves from proper alignment of pads during motion. An increased padding size offers better protection. These pads are most recommended for beginners and amateurs.
Inline skating Safety Tips
Most of the injuries suffered during inline skating could be prevented by using proper safety gear and following rollerblading guidelines or safety tips. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends following safety advice to rollerbladers [source]:
Find a Safe Place to Skate
One of the most important things to remember if you are a first-timer, an amateur or a beginner is to find an appropriate place to skate which is free from obstacles. Some of the ideal places for rollerblading beginners include empty parking lots, unoccupied sidewalks, unused tennis courts, and smooth pavements with a patch of grass beside it. Beginners are often recommended to practice their skills over grass because it offers a soft spot for a sudden fall.
You can also visit nearby indoor and outdoor skating rinks. They have well-kept spaces that are clean and devoid of unnecessary obstacles. They have a limited flow of traffic which is suitable to learn and master the intricacies of inline skating.
If you want to skate outdoors, always look for streets that are either blocked off or closed for traffic. Dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs are best spots for outdoor skating where you can glide without knocking into someone or toppling over obstacles.
Consider Fall as a Part of the Process of Learning
Guardians and learners need to understand the benefits as well as the risks of inline skating. Further, both parents and children must appreciate the fact that injuries are part and parcel of the sport.
It is inevitable particularly for a novice skater or a roller hockey player to suffer a fall while performing tricks. Therefore, the participants and learners must understand the importance of safety and must appreciate the adoption of appropriate safety guidelines.
Wear Complete Protective Gear
You should always wear full protective gear every time you skate. Your safety gear must include a certified helmet, wrist guards, elbow pads, and knee pads. Always purchase a helmet certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Snell Memorial Foundation or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Make sure that you use heavy-duty protective gear particularly designed for the sport.
Resist the Urge to Perform Advanced Tricks
Novice skaters must strictly resist the urge to perform dangerous tricks until they master the basics. Inexperienced children and amateurs must completely avoid attempting tricks. Remember that skating skills cannot be acquired overnight. You need to develop good balance and master speed control before you can proceed to the next level.
Develop the ability and judgment skills to avoid obstacles. Train under a certified instructor to learn the intricacies of the sport. Practice regularly in the indoor and outdoor rinks where speed, surface conditions, and lighting are appropriately controlled to develop the necessary skills.
Avoid Truck Surfing
Skitching or truck surfing refers to the practice of skating alongside or behind while holding on to a vehicle. This allows the skaters to glide at the same velocity at which the vehicle is traveling. It can be extremely dangerous and must be prohibited under any circumstances.
At such high speeds, skaters cannot abruptly slow down to prevent a collision with a vehicle or passersby. Again, there are chances of being thrown into fast-paced oncoming traffic. What if the vehicle suddenly stops, turns, or slows down? If the skater falls with such an enhanced momentum, he/she is likely to suffer severe injuries due to the greater force of impact.
Purchase a Proper Fitted Skates
Carefully consider the type, size, and fit of your rollerblades whether you are buying a new pair or renting one from the nearby rinks. The design and style of the skates must match the size, ability, and purpose of the skater. Make a wise purchase.
Four-wheeled skates are best for novices and intermediate-level skaters. Purchase a pair according to the foot size of your child. Five-wheeled skates are more suitable for high-performance tricks. They are preferred by long-distance and competitive skaters because of their extremely low friction.
Make sure that your skates snugly fit your feet to ensure responsive control. Keep your skates well-maintained. Change the brake pads before they wear out. Make certain that the wheels are aligned symmetrically and spin freely. Nowadays, you can easily find good skates with interchangeable liners or expandable shells to accommodate the growing foot of a child.
Look Out for Obstacles
Vigilantly watch the streets and pavements for defects and road debris. They may make you lose balance. Train yourself well to react appropriately to any such hazards that may occur rapidly. Learn to stop quickly under unpredictable circumstances. Learn to skate cautiously and fall safely. Always get your initial lessons of inline skating from an instructor certified by the International In-Line Skating Association.
Develop Physical Endurance
Remember that inline skating is an extreme sport that requires your body yo have some stamina, strength, and endurance. Children who suffer from balance problems, large-muscle motor skills, are vision deficits or have uncorrected hearing must always skate in a protected environment. Further, instructors must encourage the use of a helmet and other protective gear.
Avoid Odd Timings and Low Lighting
Never skate in the dark or during the night. The time during twilight provides poor visibility making it difficult to foresee obstacles and people. If you have to skate in the evening, prefer wearing reflective clothes so that you are easily visible to other peer skaters and passersby.
Be attentive to your surroundings. Watch out for vehicles, bikers, people, and other skaters. It is a good practice to check over your shoulder every now and then. Keep turning your head right and left to watch out for changes in the surroundings.
Learn from the Pro
Many skating enthusiasts try to learn and practice without proper training. The result is that they injure themselves badly because they do not understand the complications of the tricks. Get some instructions from the professionals and experienced skaters if you are new to inline skating.
Get formal training from a certified expert. Learn the basics, develop endurance, perfect your stance, improve balancing skills, and gain control over speed before you try to get to the next level. You can always check out nearby skating rinks for professional lessons and practice sessions with an instructor.
Many skaters hit the streets with their headphones. Wearing earbuds or headphones restrict your ability to perceive the noise of traffic and the voice of pedestrians. If you ever desire to put on your headphones, do so in a controlled, obstacle-free environment such as a bike trail or a skate trail where you do not have to worry about traffic.
Also, find a partner to skate with to have an additional pair of eyes and ears watching over you. Develop a form of indication to inform people that you are about to pass them to avoid unfortunate collisions. A whistle may do the work well. In any case, be courteous, polite, and friendly while skating with other people.
Avoid Extremely Hot Days or Rains
Avoid skating during hot summer days because the hot air may cause quick dehydration. If you have to, carry extra water and wear sunscreen. Also, avoid skating during rains because the surface becomes extra slippery making it easier to suffer nasty fall.
Do you need a helmet for rollerblading? Certainly, a certified helmet is a must for rollerblading irrespective of your skill levels.
Which is the best protective gear for rollerblading? You can find many good brands in the market with additional features for better protection. Remember that the gear must be certified, snugly fit your body parts, and allows easy movement.
Share some tips on how to correctly put on the wrist guards? Wrist pads can sometimes tricky to put on. Follow these tips to correctly put on your wrist guards:
- Locate the thumbhole.
- Locate the plastic panel designed to offer protection to your palm. If your wrist guards have plastic on the bottom as well as on the top, locate an area with a bulge to identify the protected area for the palm.
- The protective area must face down. In case your thumbholes do not face each other, flip flop the wrist guards so that your thumbholes face each other.
- Keep your thumb at the correct position in the wrist guard so that the remaining fingers fit the space next to your thumbholes. Pull the velcro straps to gently secure the wrist guards so that they snug around your arms. Press the velcro to fasten the wrist guards in place.