Inline skating is a popular form of exercise that can burn as many calories as running or cycling while potentially placing less stress on the joints of the lower body. It is thought that over 17 million Americans participate in the sport. Unfortunately, the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that over 61,000 injuries resulting from inline skating were treated in emergency departments or doctors’ offices in 2007.
The majority of injuries seen are musculoskeletal in nature, including fractures, dislocations, strains, and sprains. The wrist is the most frequently injured body part, making up 37% of all injuries. Two-thirds of wrist injuries are fractures. Head injuries comprise about 5% of inline skating injuries. Tweet this statistic.
Treatment of inline skating injuries depends on the nature of the specific injury. Since inline skating leads to mostly traumatic injuries instead of overuse ones, many of these injuries require more than just taking a break from skating. If the injury seems mild, using standard initial treatments for common sports injuries, like rest, applying ice or other cold therapies, use of a compression wrap or device, and elevating the injured body part to decrease swelling are appropriate first steps.
If there is obvious bony or joint deformity, which could suggest a fracture or dislocation, the athlete should seek medical evaluation. Wrist fractures occasionally can be treated with reduction in the emergency room, but they often require surgical treatment. Other injuries might be treated with splints, braces, casts, or surgery depending on the body part and severity.
Injuries are inevitable to some extent with inline skating, as falls are not uncommon. People unfamiliar with the sport should consider taking lessons, as novice skaters suffer approximately 14% on all injuries. Learning to stop, as well as balance and speed control, can be very important. In addition, those new to the sport should consider staying in safe environments and avoiding areas with traffic, hills, obstacles, and uneven surfaces.
Wearing protective gear is essential to minimize serious musculoskeletal injuries. It has been shown that skaters wearing wrist guards could reduce wrist injuries by 87%. Wearing elbow pads could decrease elbow injuries by 82%. Wearing knee pads could reduce knee injuries by 32%. And while head injuriesare fairly uncommon, skaters should wear helmets to prevent these serious injuries.
Skaters should select the appropriate skate for their skill level. While experienced skaters could use high-performance, five-wheeled skates, beginner or intermediate-level skaters should consider three- or four-wheeled skates. The skates must fit snugly and be in good condition.
Do you have any other ideas for decreasing the frequency or severity of injuries with inline skating? Have you ever gotten injured doing it? Let us know!
Note: I wrote this post based on an Inline Skating Tipsheet I am writing for AOSSM and STOP Sports Injuries.
National Safety Council. Inline Skating Safety.
American Academy of Pediatrics. In-line Skating Injuries in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics. 1998;101(4):720-722.
Schieber, RA et al. Risk factors for injuries from in-line skating and the effectiveness of safety gear. The New England Journal of Medicine. 1996;335(22):1630-1635.