When compared to many other sports, roller skating is one of the safest sports you can participate in. We aren't just talking football and hockey here either. Roller skaters rarely reach the high speeds of bicycle riders, and they have more control when skating than bike riders do. In fact, emergency room records have indicated that nearly 5 times as many kids end up in the emergency room from bicycle accidents than from skating accidents.
Additionally, many of the injuries that people are afraid of, or have heard of about roller skating are easily prevented by simply wearing the proper protective gear.
Skating Safety: Helmets
Protective gear is an absolute must when skating. Wearing protective gear will eliminate most injuries and improve the overall safety and enjoyment of your roller skating experience.
A complete set of protective gear consists of four primary pieces. The first and most important piece of equipment is a helmet. We recommend that you invest in an inline skating helmet or aggressive skate helmet because they're designed to come down lower, towards the base of the skull, to provide maximum protection in case you fall backward. Here is picture of a typical skating helmet:
The most common question asked regarding helmets and skating is whether a bike helmet is suitable for use when skating. The answer is yes but you should keep in mind that its design is different than a skating helmet in respect to how far it comes down towards the base of the skull. Falling backward on a bicycle is far less likely, thus the reason for the design difference.
When wearing a helmet, the chin strap should be positioned snugly around your chin. A loose or improperly fitting helmet (not snug on your head) may slip off during a fall. This may result in a more severe injury because your instinct will be to grab your helmet rather than brace for your fall. Not to mention your head will be exposed to injury. An improperly fitting helmet defeats the purpose of wearing one, so be sure it is on correctly. Here is a quick snapshot guide on helmet positioning:
To help you with sizing your helmet correctly, here are some tips for measuring your head:
- Using a soft tape measure, wrap the tape around your head, just above your eyebrows. Keep the tape level from front to back.
- If you do not have a soft tape measure available, use a piece of string in the same fashion described above. You can then take the string and measure using a ruler to the circumference point you determined.
- If you are purchasing a helmet as a gift, and you do not want to (or are unable to) measure the head of the individual you are purchasing for, measure the inside of the current helmet that he or she is currently using. If that is not possible, use a baseball hat that is frequently worn.
Skating Safety: Knee Pads
After your helmet, the second piece of protective gear that you should always wear is knee pads. Knee pads are soft pads that have a hard shell exterior that prevent your knees from getting scrapped if you fall. Knee pads, like many other pieces of equipment in the skating industry, have evolved over the years. While their primary purpose is still to protect your knees, the materials have changed to allow for maximum protection without being bulky, heavy, or making you too hot. A good knee pad is likely to have additional cushioning behind the plastic shell or possible a wicking material that will keep moisture from making it uncomfortable. Knee pads are typically fastened by two Velcro straps that allow you to secure them snugly around your leg.
Skating Safety: Elbow Pads
In addition to knee pads, the third piece of protective gear you should wear is elbow pads. Elbow pads are similar to knee pads, the exceptions being the size of the pad and the place that you wear them. Just like knee pads, elbow pads typically fasten by two Velcro straps, and should fit snug on your elbow. Elbow pads have evolved in similar fashion to knee pads, with many offering additional cushioning behind the plastic shell or wicking material to reduce sweat and moisture.
Skating Safety: Wrist Guards
The final piece of protective equipment that you will want to wear is wrist guards. One of the most common injuries that occur with skaters is a wrist injury. Almost every wrist injury that occurs can be prevented by simply wearing a pair of wrist guards. Wrist guards are available in a couple of different styles, including those that use a hard plastic on the top and bottom, or a soft pad with plastic inserts at the palm of each hand. Either type is a suitable choice. You may also find wrist guards that offer wicking material to reduce sweat and moisture. The following is an image of each wrist guard style mentioned previously:
Wrist pads are a very important piece of protective gear. However, they can be a bit tricky to put on. Here are some tips on how to put your wrist guards on the correct way.
- Locate the thumb hole on each wrist guard.
- Locate the plastic panel that is designed to protect your palm. This piece is easy to locate on wrist guards that do not have plastic on both the top and bottom. For wrist guards that have plastic on the top and bottom, look for an area that has a bulge. This is the protective plastic area for your palm.
- The protective area for your palm should be facing down. If the thumb holes are not facing each other, you have the wrist guards backward so you should flip flop them so the thumb holes face each other.
- Place your thumb in the correct wrist guard, and the remaining fingers through space next to the thumb hole. Secure the wrist guard by pulling the Velcro straps until the guard is snug around your arm. Press the Velcro together to fasten it in place.
Skating Safety: Safe Places to Learn
If you're a beginner, or a first-timer for that matter, the best places to learn are obstacle free spaces. Empty parking lots, unused tennis courts, a sidewalk, or any flat, smooth piece of pavement with grass beside it is ideal. The grass is recommended because it offers a soft place to fall when you are learning to skate. We recommend that you avoid the well-traveled trails and parks initially. This will allow you to hone your skills so you can maneuver safely. Once you've done that, you can move on to these areas.
Additionally, another safe place is your local indoor or outdoor skating rink. These areas are usually kept very clean, and even when they are busy, the traffic flow is controlled enough that you can still work on learning the intricacies of skating.
Skating Safety: Tips
Aside from wearing all of the appropriate protective gear, there are additional things that you can do to assure your safety when skating. Here is a list of several of them. There are many more, but here is a brief list:
- Do not skate at night or in the dark. An environment of this type makes it very difficult to see other skaters or other people. If you are going to skate in the evening or the dark, wear reflective clothing to make yourself visible.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. When you are skating you will want to be conscious of vehicles, other skaters, bikers, or people that are around you. A good rule of thumb is to check over your shoulder ever 20 seconds, and keep your head on a swivel.
- If you're new to roller skating, get some instruction from experienced skaters. Friends and family are always great teachers, provided they know how to skate. If you are looking for more formal training, check out your local skating rink for lessons.
- Select skating locations that are safe. Avoid uneven surfaces, debris, and unsafe neighborhoods.
- Skating with headphones should only be done in areas that are obstacle free or controlled. Wearing headphones or earbuds will restrict your ability to hear traffic or pedestrians. If you desire to wear such items, do so when skating along a bike trail or skate trail where other skaters will know the same rules, and there isn't any traffic to worry about.
- Find a partner to skate with. Skating alone is fun too, but skating with a buddy is safer and just as fun. An additional set of eyes and ears is always good, and if you get into trouble, there will be a reliable person with you.
- Keep your eyes peeled for cars. If you skate in a neighborhood, keep a sharp look out for vehicles coming down the street or around corners. If you must cross the street, do so at a cross walk.
- Watch out for debris, rocks, and cracks when you are skating. Any of these items can put you at risk of injury or wreck your skates entirely.
- Do not skate outside your means. It is always nice to progress your skating level, but do so in an area that allows you to do it. If you are not comfortable on hills, do not skate on them until you are ready to. Keep in mind that you will gain speed quickly on even a very small hill.
- When you skate with friends or in an area with other people, do so in a single file line. Keep to the far right side of sidewalks, bike paths, and trails.
- If you skate on trails with other people, let them know you are planning to pass them and on which side. This will allow you to avoid any unfortunate collisions that could hurt you, or worse, someone else.
- Be courteous, friendly, helpful, polite and civic-minded when skating. This will help you avoid being the victim of another individual's bike-path skate rage. Also, it will help prevent the possibility of a skating ban in your area. If that happens, you'll be severely disappointed.