Is there a skateboarder in the house? Dr. James R. Andrews, the authority on sports medicine, shows you how to keep your Tony Hawk wannabe safe. From his book Any Given Monday: Sports Injuries and How to Prevent Them, for Athletes, Parents, and Coaches–Based on My Life in Sports Medicine, with Don Yaeger.
Without a doubt, the wrist is the most vulnerable joint for any skater, as it becomes the body’s natural means of bracing the body against a fall. The impact of hitting the ground or half-pipe can break any of the several small bones in the wrist. If you suspect a fracture, call a doctor. Studies have shown that fractures compromise approximately two-thirds of all serious wrist injuries in skating. Sprains are common too, as are scrapes long the wrist and the ball of the hand if a skater falls and slides. In all cases, wrist guards can help protect the joint, skin, and delicate bones of the hand. Look for wrist guards that fit snugly without restricting blood flow to the fingers and that provide extra padding where the palm of the hand meets the wrist, as this is the area that generally endures the most stress. While some skaters will insist that extra gear restricts motion and makes tricks more difficult to execute, skaters of all levels, even advanced skaters, should wear wrist guards at all times. A wrist guard is far less restrictive than a cast or a surgically repaired wrist with metal plates and screws to hold it together.
Helmets are also extremely important and should never be considered optional. Any skater with dreams of competing in the X Games should be aware that helmets are required in competition. A good helmet should fit securely and contain a slick outer shell that will slide easily on any surface. This feature will help to deflect the energy of a fall at a high speed, and prevent the head from catching on the ground and jarring the vertebrae of the neck. The challenge, of course, is that in-line skating and skateboarding are often practiced independent of coach or adult supervision. Therefore, it is important for young skaters to know the warning signs of a concussion and know when to call a parent or other responsible adult to take a hurt skater for medical evaluation. Even if a skater does not black out, it is still possible that a mild traumatic brain injury could have occurred due to the impact of the brain being forcibly shaken against the inside of the skull. If a fellow skater seems at all confused, dizzy, nauseated, physically unbalanced, or complains of a headache after hitting his or her head, alert an adult immediately and do not resume activity until help arrives. Never allow the injured person to take aspirin, which can worsen the condition by causing further bleeding.
Parents must also be made aware of any head injuries or potential concussions that may have occurred so that they can monitor their child for sleeplessness, restlessness, or other uncharacteristic behavior. These symptoms may last up to three weeks after the accident. If a skater exhibits any of these symptoms, consult a medical professional at once. Concussions, like any brain injury, can pose long-term health risks if left untreated.
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