Skateboard Injuries Are Down, But Skateboarding Didn’t Get Safer

Fewer skateboarders are seeking hospital treatment for injuries. But it’s not because they’re being more careful.

A study in Clinical Pediatrics speculates that the drop in injuries is probably because fewer kids are taking up the sport. And you can’t blame the trend entirely on Tony Hawk’s retirement, either.

“It is likely that the decrease in skateboarding injuries is attributable to a large extent to a more sedentary lifestyle adopted by children today,” wrote Professors Peter S. Tuckel and William Milczarski (Hunter College). They also cited statistics from the Outdoor Foundation that show the number of Americans who skateboard fell from 10 million to 6 million between 2006 and 2017.

Using national data for emergency room visits and hospital admissions, the professors estimate that hospitals treated 2.1 million injuries from skateboarding between 2000 and 2017. But the rate of injuries seen by emergency rooms peaked in 2008 (at 48.7 per 100,000 population), then fell in the years after (to 29.8 per 100,000 population in 2017).

Skateboarding injuries are down among kids and teenagers but older ‘boarders — 20 and up – are experiencing more injuries than in the past. Here are some moves from a skateboarding park in New York City. Video by Ronald Chunilall.

The biggest decline was in kids ages 10 to 14, with declines among those ages 5 to 9 and 15 to 19 as well. Only those 20 and older — who may have taken up the sport back in its heyday — experienced more injuries than in the past. Fractures to the upper limbs were the most common issue; head injuries were seen more often in older ‘boarders; and more than 80 percent of those injured were male.

Injuries are also occurring more often these days on streets and highways instead of parks, and in urban settings. This suggests that more of today’s skateboarders are using the sport as a means of transportation. In New York State, the percent of injured skateboarders who live in New York City rose from 13 to 36 percent over a decade.

Those seeking hospital care for skateboard-related injuries are also less likely to be white and more likely to be low-income than in the past. One possible explanation: Those with private insurance may be heading to personal physicians or urgent care centers instead of emergency rooms.

To see how often skateboarders use protective gear, the professors sent their Hunter students out to 31 skateboard parks. The students found that only 10 percent of the 2,400 boarders they watched wore helmets, and even in parks requiring helmets, only 17 percent used them. And 26 percent of the ‘boarders they observed fell, with falls more frequent among those wearing headphones or earbuds.

Beyond SUM

Work By

Peter S. Tuckel (Professor, Sociology) | Profile 1
William Milczarski (Professor, Urban Policy and Planning) | Profile 1

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Hunter College