In-Line Skating Risks

ATLANTA.--The growing popularity of in-line skating in the United States is substantial. With the increased numbers of skaters come increased risk of bodily injury.

Richard A. Schieber, M.D. and associates at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published in-line skating risk data in the New England Journal of Medicine (1996;335:1630-5). They noted that over 20 million people are currently estimated to be skating in the US. This reflects an increase of nearly 80 percent in the last 2 years. It also reflects a 169 percent increase in emergency department in-line skater injuries.

The most typical fall involved injury to beginner skaters who were wearing little or no safety gear! However, nearly 20 percent were expert skaters. 75 percent of the injured skaters were skating for exercise alone.

The most common site of injury is the wrist--37 percent of all injuries. Nearly two thirds of these injuries were fractures (broken bones in the wrists). Frequently, injury was associated with an outstretched arm attempting to stop a fall.

Dr. Schieber's study also found that wrist guards and elbow pads are very effective in protecting in-line skaters against injuries. The number of skaters with head injuries in their study did not allow statistical determination of the effectiveness of helmets.

The authors concluded that in-line skaters should wear wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads, and helmets whenever skating.


Last Editorial Review: 1/29/2003