Sports & Leisure – Blazing Trails: In-line Skating

Approximately one million Canadians are in-line skating, and the numbers continue to grow. It provides an excellent cardiovascular workout and helps develop balance and coordination. But as the number of people in-line skating has increased, so have the number of injuries resulting from this activity. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) has seen a steady rise in the number of children and youth treated for in-line skating injuries. From 1998 to 2002, 397 children and youth were seen for in-line skating injuries at CHEO. In addition to those children seen in CHEO and other local hospitals, many of these injuries are treated in doctors’ offices and walk-in clinics, or go unreported.

According to a report by Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention program (CHIRPP), 962 in-line skating injuries were reported in the period of a year. About 60 per cent of injuries reported were experience by males and 10 –14 year olds. Half of these injuries were the result of a loss of control, leading to a fall, with no specific cause. Fractures represented about 48 per cent of all injuries. These numbers continue to grow as the amount of people who in-line skate increases.

One of the most common in-line skating related injuries are broken arms and wrists. Skaters often try to break their fall by extending their arms to the front, side or behind them. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, as many as two-thirds of in-line skaters do not wear safety gear. Most in-line skating injuries are preventable. The following tips will help to keep you safe while getting fit this season.

Safety tips before you head out:

  • Always wear protective equipment: elbow and knee pads, light gloves, wrist guards, and especially helmets – which SIGNIFICANTLY reduce head and brain injury. Also, wearing pants and long-sleeve shirts can help prevent scrapes in the event of a fall.
  • Choose good-quality skates that fit your feet and ankles properly. Using loose skates will not provide adequate ankle support and control. Bring socks, when purchasing, to ensure a proper fit.
  • Check skates regularly to make sure they are in good condition. Replace worn wheels and the brake. Make sure the wheels are securely tightened and are not blocked by debris or grass.

For beginner skaters:

  • Begin skating with a five-minute, slow skate to warm up; you will be less likely to tear muscles.
  • While skating, keep knees slightly bent, which will lower your centre of gravity, and keep your body balanced on the balls of your feet.
  • Practice stopping by bringing the foot with the heel stop forward until the heel stop is next to the toe of the other foot. Gently bend your front knee while lifting your toes up. This motion will bring you to a stop. This is known as the “heel stop.”
  • Accept the fact that falls will happen and practice falling on a soft lawn or a gym mat.
  • Before using any trail, achieve a basic skating level, including the ability to turn, control speed, brake on downhills, and recognize and avoid skating obstacles.

Rules to stick to while hitting the paths:

  • Skate on the right side of sidewalks, bike paths and trails. Pass on the left as cars do, after yelling, “passing on the left.” Don’t pass without warning.
  • In densely populated areas, be especially watchful for cars and other traffic when crossing roads and streets. Remember that you must obey all traffic regulations.
  • Watch for changes in skating trail conditions because of traffic, weather conditions or hazards such as water, potholes or storm debris. When in doubt, slow down. Do not skate on wet or oily surfaces.
  • Exercise caution when near a park. Sand on path surfaces can cause your wheels to jam up; as well kids could dart in front of your path unexpectedly.

Source: The City of Ottawa , CHIRPP, and National Safety Council