4 Reasons Why Skateboarding Concussions Are a Bigger Threat Than You Thought

R. Robert Franks, DO, FAOASM December 10th, 2014

When we think about children and concussions, we generally think about football. The standard concussion graphic usually involves a brain getting jostled around inside of a football helmet (presumably after another helmet has smashed into it). But as dangerous as football can be, it comes with several built-in precautions. It’s a regulated sport that involves protective equipment and numerous athletic trainers ready to treat the affected athletes.

Now, picture yourself in a rundown alleyway. Four young teens wearing the latest fashions, but no protective gear, are trying unsuccessfully to jump curbs and do kickflips on their skateboards. One in the group suggests trying to grind down a nearby railing because he saw one of his favorite skaters pull the trick in the most recent X Games. Looks can be deceiving, but in this scenario, it looks like we could be just a few seconds away from a skateboarding concussion.

Despite the risk inherent in their name, extreme sports such as skateboarding have largely flown under the radar in the push toward greater concussion awareness. In a 2011 study, the CDC reported over 6,000 traumatic brain injuries (TBI) resulting from skateboarding in the preceding decade. Despite the smaller pool of skateboarders, these numbers were not much lower than concussions resulting from nationwide sports like soccer and baseball.
Here are four reasons why your children may be more vulnerable to skateboarding concussions than you thought:
1. The Skateboarding Mentality
Skateboarding has some traction as a symbol of rebellion. There are different connotations associated between a group of children gathering to play croquet and a group of kids meeting up to skateboard. There will never be a moment where a kid asks his friends if it’s ok if his Mom comes along to the skatepark, “to make sure we don’t get hurt.”
Danger is certainly part of skateboarding’s appeal. Skateboarding, both literally and figuratively, often means riding on the edge.
2. Potential for Misuse
Let’s say that your skateboarding child isn’t looking to defy death every time he or she goes to the skatepark. As dangerous as what can happen at the skatepark can be, there is also danger in what can happen on the way to the skatepark. Reckless riding on sidewalks and roads can be a big risk factor for skateboarding concussions.
Skateboards can be a viable means of transportation on quiet streets. But given the laws of momentum and the lack of breaks, a skateboard is not the ideal mode of transportation to use in rush hour traffic.
3. YouTube Generation
We live in an era when everything is better with a video clip (if not a gif). There’s a good chance that when kids are out skateboarding they have at least slight aspirations of becoming the next YouTube stars. The potential danger here is that you can’t go viral without an impressive (and risky) trick, unless you have an equally impressive “fail” - neither of which result in good things for your child’s noggin.
4. The X (Games) Factor
Each year, the world’s top skateboarders display their most daring tricks at the X Games. X Games athletes are often portrayed as daredevils, who view the injuries they’ve accrued over their careers as badges of honor. For the enthusiastic skateboarding fan, attempts to emulate their favorite athletes in the X Games might lead to recklessness and the threat of a concussion.
What Can You Do?
Always Wear a Helmet!
The #1 thing that you can do to protect your children from skateboarding head injuries is to make sure they wear a helmet. The importance of helmets cannot be overemphasized. Helmets can reduce the risk of a head injury by 85 percent and brain injury by 88 percent.
Know the Signs
If your child does injure his or her head while skateboarding, they may not immediately report it to you. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms after you child returns from boarding:
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Slowed speech
  • Loss of memory
  • Unusual mood swings
  • Visual changes
  • Trust Your Kid
Children are smart, and even if they are out to test themselves against the streets, they are just as averse to getting skateboarding concussions as anybody else. Experience is as good a teacher as any in learning which risks are and are not worth taking.
In the end, falls and scrapes are a natural part of skateboarding. As long as protective gear is in place, skateboarding head injuries can be reduced. Have fun raising your future X Games star!

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