Athletes can easily attain speeds of 25 miles per hour during inline skating, a sport that combines roller skating with ice skating by aligning rollers in the shape of a single “blade” on the bottoms of inline skating boots. In association with such high-speed movement, one would expect a fairly high injury rate, and indeed the number of injuries due to inline skating is rapidly increasing Injuries from inline Skating. In fact, there are more injuries caused by inline skating than are induced by skateboarding, hockey, lacrosse or rugby (“inline Skating Injuries,” Sports Medicine, Vol. 31(9), pp. 691-699, 2001). It is estimated that over the last decade or so, the number of inline skating injuries has increased roughly six-fold in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Australia (“Preventing inline Skating Injuries: How Effective Are the Countermeasures?” Sports Medicine, Vol. 28(5), pp. 325-335, 1999. In the United States alone, hospital clinics, ambulatory-surgery centres, and doctors’ offices reported about 270,000 inline skating injuries in 1997; more than 35% of these injuries involved a fractured bone. 25% of the injuries were located in the wrist (which often bears the brunt of a hard fall), and a troubling 5% of inline skating injuries involved the head. Many of these head injuries were life-threatening, and head injuries in general tend to be very costly and can cause long-term disability. Overall, the estimated yearly cost of medical treatment for inline skating injuries in the United States is $4.8 billion.
It is true that adolescents still represent the largest group of skaters, both in terms of participation and injury. However, all age groups are vulnerable to inline skating injury; the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reported nearly 1500 injuries in individuals 65 years and over in a recent year. Risk factors for injury include inexperience, aggressive skating, and the total amount of time spent inline skating. A key factor in the high inline skating injury rate may also be the reluctance to use personal protective equipment; in fact, one recent study found that only 6% of recreational inline skaters regularly use the four recommended protective devices – helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards (“Predictors of Injury among Adult Recreational inline Skaters: A Multi-City Study,” American Journal of Public Health, Volume 89(2), pp. 238-241, 1999). The general consensus is that protective devices are effective in reducing the incidence and severity of inline skating injuries. For example, in one recent study 26% of all injuries in recreational inline skaters occurred in individuals who were not wearing any of the four protective devices, while just 5% of the injuries were suffered by skaters wearing all four of the protective implements (“inline Skating: Injuries and Prevention,” Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, Vol. 40(3), pp. 247-253, 2000).
One recent study (ibid) carried out at the Medical Clinic and Polyclinic, Department of Sports Medicine, University of Tubingen, Germany, found that 38% of inline skating injuries occurred in the upper part of the body, 31% in the lower extremities, 21% in the hip/pelvis region, and 10% in the head. In this investigation, a shocking 35% of all injuries were concussions, which were equal to skin lesions as the most “popular” type of injury. 10% of inline skating problems were ligament injuries, while fractures accounted for 5% of the total.
This fracture total is probably an underestimate if one focuses on serious inline injuries, since a study recently completed at the University of Umea in Sweden found that roughly half of all inline skating injuries were fractures (“Inline Skating – High Fracture Risk. Two of Three Injured Are Boys and Young Men. Wrist Fractures Are Most Common,” Lakartidningen, Vol. 97(44), pp. 4998-5000, 2000. The frequency of wrist fractures varies rather widely from study to study, but one investigation found that wrist-bone breaks accounted for up to 25% of all inline skating injuries (Sports Medicine, Vol. 28(5), pp. 325-335, 1999)! This certainly suggests that the wearing of wrist protectors would be a wise move for inline skaters, along with the regular performance of strengthening exercises for the wrists and forearms. The problem for falling skaters is that they typically put out one or both hands to break their falls; when they land on a hard surface, the arm and the wrist in particular sustain the brunt of the impact.
You’ll find the best tips for reducing your risk of inline skating injuries below. Some of these guidelines may seem obvious, but they are ignored all too often by inline skaters. When it comes to inline skating, ignorance of injury-prevention strategies is definitely not bliss, since such ignorance is associated with a significantly higher risk of getting seriously hurt.