Children love playing outdoors, going fast, and navigating bumps and curves. A generation ago, most children discovered these pleasures on their own two legs or on a bicycle. Today, children can enjoy a wide variety of outdoor riding equipment including scooters, in-line rollerskates, and skateboards.
While these new outdoor sports provide healthy exercise and fun, they can also lead to serious injuries. Children can reach high speeds riding on scooters, skateboards and in-line skates—which can lead to dangerous impacts when they fall and hit the hard pavement. Unfortunately, falls are common due to the difficulty maneuvering the equipment and children's limited judgment, skill and strength. Falls frequently lead to injuries when children ride in unsafe locations—such as on streets—and without helmets and safety gear. Last year, 50,000 children were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for skateboard injuries; over 80,000 children were treated for scooter injuries; and 100,000 were treated for in-line skate injuries. Concussions, facial cuts, knocked out teeth, and broken arms and legs were common. Some of the most serious injuries and deaths occurred when children were hit by motor vehicles.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have developed safety recommendations for scooters, skateboards, and in-line rollerskates. If you're considering letting your children to participate in these sports, make safety a priority:
Wait until your child is old enough to ride safely and supervise your child closely: Children are likely to have a safe and enjoyable experience when their age, size, strength, and skill level are appropriate for the equipment. Be sure to follow the age designations on the equipment packaging. CPSC and AAP recommend that children ride skateboards only after age 5, and only with close adult supervision until age 10. They recommend that children under age 8 ride scooters and in-line rollerskates only with close adult supervision. When young children are learning a new sport, they need adults close by to provide guidance and encouragement, and to ensure they're safe.
Make sure your child has safe equipment: Check that the equipment is certified for safety and not on the CPSC recall list (check www.cpsc.gov). Also make sure it's the proper size for your child and maintained in good repair.
Make sure your child wears a helmet and other protective gear: A safe helmet is crucial to prevent serious head injuries—check the package to make sure it's certified by ANSI, ASTM, Snell Memorial Foundation, or CPSC. Elbow pads and knee pads are also important. Wrist guards are recommended for skateboarding and rollerskating, but they're not recommended for scooters since they may interfere with gripping the handlebars. On scooters and skateboards, shoes or sneakers are safer than sandals. A full set of safety gear costs less than $100—a good investment to prevent a more costly injury.
Find safe places for your child to ride: Take your child to playgrounds, parks and rinks where he can ride on smooth pavement, far away from cars. Avoid sand, gravel and uneven pavement, which can cause falls. Community and commercial skateboarding parks, when designed according to safety standards and monitored for safety, are generally safer than home-built ramps and jumps. Don't let children ride in parking lots, on driveways, or on the street. Tell them never to hitch a ride on a moving vehicle. And don't allow riding after dark when visibility is poor.
Consider lessons: Classes can teach your child basics skills such as turning, stopping, and falling safely. They help to reinforce safety as a central part of the sport.
For more information, visit www.cpsc.gov and www.aap.org.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician
Parenting advice is given as a suggestion only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider.