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Safety Tips: Inline Skating

Whether you're in a skate park in the Northeast, cruising the boardwalks of California, or playing a game of roller hockey in the Midwest, inline skating is good exercise and an excellent off-season training program for hockey and skiing.

Why Is Inline Skating Safety Important?

Inline skating has exploded in popularity. Skaters can be found most everywhere that bicyclists, skateboarders, and joggers go. This increases the chances of painful collisions.

Most inline skating injuries happen when a skater loses balance and falls on a hard surface. Skaters who wear protective equipment are less likely to be injured. The most commonly injured body parts are the hands and arms, although abrasions to other areas of the body are common. Most seriously, skaters who don't wear helmets can get head injuries.

Gear Guidelines

Always wear safety gear — and make sure you have it on properly — anytime you go inline skating. Here's a rundown of what you'll need when you skate:

Where and When to Skate

Choosing the right place to skate can go a long way toward preventing injuries, particularly for beginner or first-time skaters. When you're learning to skate, try to pick an area that is free of obstacles and other people, such as empty parking lots, unused tennis courts, or an expanse of smooth pavement with grass beside it, like a bike or other recreational trail. (Grass alongside the pavement will give you a soft place to fall as you learn to skate.)

Once your skills have advanced a little, you might want to consider heading to an indoor or outdoor skating rink before moving on to a skate park or trail. Rinks are generally kept clean and free of debris and obstacles. Although they may be crowded, the flow of traffic is controlled and monitored so you can get used to skating near other people.

Skate parks generally offer simpler features for novice skaters, as well as more advanced features for experts. Be honest about your abilities, and never try to take on a ramp or bowl until you're a good enough skater to tackle them safely.

Try to use recreational trails. Avoid sidewalks and roads as much as possible. If you must use roadways, never skate in traffic. Be courteous to pedestrians, bicyclists, and anyone else you see. Follow trail and traffic rules, and always use crosswalks to get across streets.

Wherever you skate, be sure there are no potholes, cracks, or other obstacles. Make certain the area is dry and free of wet leaves, debris, oily patches, or ice. Never skate at night, and try to avoid skating at dusk, when hazards are more difficult to see and you're less visible to others. Never skate when it's raining or snowing, as this will make surfaces slippery and increase your chances of getting hurt.

Before You Start Skating

Better skaters have more fun and are less likely to get injured. Consider taking lessons from a trained instructor or experienced skater before you try skating on your own. Know how to turn, control speed, stop, and skate with your head up so you can recognize and avoid obstacles and other people. Practice falling on grass or a gym mat so that when a real fall happens you'll be prepared to fall the right way.

Each time you head out, warm up with a gentle 5-minute skate and stretches. Some skaters warm up before putting their skates on.

Double-check to make sure you have all the necessary safety gear and that it is all being worn properly. Check to make sure your helmet's chin strap is fastened and snug.

If you're planning to skate on a trail, know how far you intend to go and how long it will take you to get back. Tell a family member or friend where you're going and how long you will be gone.

While Skating

Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Know where other skaters, pedestrians, bicyclists, and joggers are, and be sure to give them plenty of space to avoid collisions. If you're skating in a skate park, practice good etiquette by waiting until the area is clear and it's your turn to skate.

Stay to the right when skating on sidewalks, bike paths, and trails. If you're going to pass another person, do so on the left, and let them know you are coming by yelling out, "On your left!" Only pass when it's safe and there is room enough for you and the other person.

Watch out for changing conditions due to weather or other factors. Just because the pavement is smooth in one spot doesn't mean it will be smooth a hundred yards ahead. If you feel like you're approaching an area with a wet, oily, bumpy, potholed, or cracked surface, slow down until you are sure it's safe to proceed.

Don't skate while wearing headphones. Listening to music while skating will make it difficult to hear traffic, pedestrians, or other skaters.

Try to find a friend or friends to skate with. This will not only be more fun, but you'll also be able to look out for one another and get help in the event of an emergency. If you and your skating partners skate on a trail or sidewalk, make sure to form a single-file line.

A Few Other Reminders

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014

Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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