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Inline Skating Safety Statistics

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) is the government organization that analyzes injury data caused by sports. The CPSC gets its data by checking emergency room information from selected hospitals around the country, then estimates national figures.

There are many statistics from the CPSC about skating injuries and we present some of these below.  However, what is really useful is to compare the rate of skating injuries with injuries from other sports.  In 2001 the New York Times did exactly this type of analysis using the CPSC's 1999 data.

The New York Times found the following rates of severe injuries (ie requiring hospitalization):

Sports

Injury Rate per 1000 Participants

Basketball

8.8

Soccer

8.6

Softball

8.0

Bicycling

4.1

Inline Skating

3.4

Tennis

2.6

Golf

1.2

Swimming

0.7

As was shown, the rate of serious injury for inline skaters is less than half the rate for those playing active team sports such as basketball, soccer, and softball.  Moreover, the injury rate for skaters is less than for bicyclists.  Clearly, inline skating is not so dangerous as many people imagine.

Why is that? We can conjecture there are three reasons.  First, inline skating injuries that do occur are usually minor scrapes and "road rashes".  Second, many inline skaters realize they are at some risk and wear proper protective gear.  Third, many skaters probably do start out with a lesson, which significantly increases stopping ability and thus injury rate.

What can inline skaters do to reduce the possibility of a significant injury? Take a lesson and wear full protective gear.  In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that up to 1/3 of serious skating injuries could be eliminated by wearing wrist guards alone!  As will be seen in the statistics below, this is true not only for beginners but for intermediate and advanced skaters as well.

Other CPSC Statistics

1996 Percent of Total Injuries by Location
(alphabetized by body part)

Ankle

6.7%

Leg (lower)

3.8 %

Arm (lower)

13.5 %

Leg (upper)

1.1 %

Arm (upper)

0.7 %

Mouth

1.2 %

Elbow

7.6 %

Neck

0.8 %

Eyeball

0,2 %

Pubic Region

0.8 %

Face

7.1 %

Shoulder

4.2 %

Finger

5.5 %

Toe

0.2 %

Foot

1.0 %

Torso (lower)

5.1 %

Hand

3.6 %

Torso (upper)

1.8 %

Head

4.1 %

Wrist

24.2 %

Knee

6.8 %

Other

0.5 %

Source: National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS)

Note: As can be seen from the above chart, wrist injuries are by far the most common skating injuries.  Wearing wrist guards prevents this because it allows the wrist to slide along the pavement rather than absorbing all the shock of a fall directly.

CHARACTERISTICS OF INJURED INLINE SKATERS

   

Characteristic

% of Sample

Ability Level

 

Novice

10

 

Beginner

34

 

Intermediate

37

 

Expert

18

Number of Times Inline Skating

 

1 - 5

25

 

6 - 12

12

 

13 - 99

26

 

> 100

37

Reasons for Participation

 

To get exercise

75

 

To play roller hockey

37

 

For transportation

35

 

To perform tricks (aggressive)

31

Number of Lessons Taken

 

0

50

 

1 - 5

37

 

> 6

11

Ownership of Skates

 

Owned

72

 

Rented or borrowed

28

Condition of Skates

 

Good

85

 

Fair or poor

14

The percentages are calculated for an estimated 6,331 persons treated in emergency departments nationally during the study period. They are based on data from 161 injured skaters, weighted according to the hospital in the NEISS sample in which they were treated. These values do not include subjects for whom the following were unknown ability level (1 percent of the total), number of lessons taken (2 percent), or condition of skates (1 percent).

Note: 55% of injured skaters in this survey classified themselves as Intermediate or Advanced.  Plus, 63% of the injured people could be classified as frequent skaters.  The myth that only beginners will fall and get hurt is only that - a myth.  Finally, note that only 48% of injured skaters had ever taken a lesson, even though stopping using the heel brake and falling properly using wrist guards are not natural motions.  Take a lesson!

CHARACTERISTICS OF FALLS AND INJURIES
SUSTAINED BY INLINE SKATERS

   

Characteristic

% of Sample

Location of Fall

 

Sidewalk or driveway

26

 

Street

22

 

Park or bike path

19

 

Indoors

10

 

Parking lot

9

 

Other

14

Proximate Cause of Fall

 

Spontaneous loss of balance

41

 

Striking a stationary hazard 1

40

 

Striking a moving object 2

11

 

Swerving to avoid hazard or collision

4

 

Other

4

Special Factors Pertaining to Fall  3

 

Hazardous Road Condition

 

 

   Cited

53

 

   Cited as key cause

63

 

Skating out of control

 

 

   Cited

25

 

   Cited as key cause

67

 

Poor visibility (twilight or darkness)

 

 

   Cited

17

 

   Cited as key cause

6

 

Fatigue

 

 

   Cited

11

 

   Cited as key cause

37

Anatomical Site of Primary Injury 4

 

Wrist

32

 

Lower leg (including ankle)

13

 

Face (or chin)

12

 

Elbow

9

 

Knee

6

 

Head

5

 

Other

23

Type of Injury

 

Wrist fracture

25

 

Face or chin laceration

10

 

Wrist sprain

6

 

Elbow fracture

5

 

Lower-leg fracture

5

 

Ankle sprain

4

Severity of Injury

 

Major

51

 

Minor

49

Safety Gear Worn at Time of Injury

 

Wrist guards

33

 

Elbow pads

28

 

Knee pads

45

 

Helmet

20

 

All of the above gear

7

 

No gear

46

The percentages are calculated for an estimated 6,331 persons treated in emergency departments nationally during the study period. They are based on data from 161 injured skaters, weighted according to the hospital in the NEISS sample in which they were treated. These values do not include subjects for whom the following were unknown ability level (1 percent of the total), number of lessons taken (2 percent), or condition of skates (1 percent).

Footnotes:
1. The hazard was usually a defect or debris in the road.
2. Collisions usually occurred with another skater, and less than one percent involved a motor vehicle.
3. More than one response was allowed. Percentages given for key-cause citations are of those who cited the factor.
4. Thirteen percent of skaters had more than one injury.
5. Seventy-two percent of wrist injuries, 48 percent of elbow injuries, 38 percent of head injuries, and 34 percent of knee injuries were major. Six percent of patients with major injuries were admitted to the hospital.

Note: Perhaps most interesting in the above statistics is that most injuries occurred from a "spontaneous loss of balance" (we all know what that means) or "striking a stationary hazard" (tripping over something).  It is also interesting to note that while most skaters wear no gear, the most common kind of safety gear are knee pads, despite the fact that wrist injuries are much more common than knee injuries.

 


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