Protective effect of safety gear in in-line skating injuries - Tips from Other Journals

Author: Kathryn M. Andolsek
Date: May 1, 1997

In-line skating is a popular recreational sport in the United States. Over 22 million persons skated in 1995, representing a 79 percent increase over the number of skaters in 1993. During the same period, the number of in-line skaters injured badly enough to require care in the emergency department increased by 169 percent. The most common injury involved the wrist, and two thirds of wrist injuries were fractures. The use of helmets, elbow pads and knee pads is recommended, although rates of use are low. Schieber and colleagues surveyed injured skaters to identify risk factors for injury and to determine the effectiveness of wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads and helmets in preventing skating injuries.

Subjects were drawn from patients treated for in-line skating injuries at one of 91 hospital emergency departments that participated in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System between December 1992 and July 1993. One hundred sixty-one (78 percent) of 206 eligible injured subjects were interviewed. The skaters who were surveyed ranged in age from six to 59 years. Forty-eight percent of the study participants were male. The typical patient was a novice or beginning skater who wore little or no safety gear and who spontaneously lost balance while skating outdoors or fell after striking a defect or debris in the road.

Only 7 percent of injured skaters wore all recommended types of safety gear. Forty-six percent of the patients wore none. The odds ratio for wrist injury for those who did not wear wrist guards compared with those who wore wrist guards was 10.4. The odds ratio for elbow injury was 9.5 for those who did not wear elbow pads, after adjustment for the number of lessons skaters had and whether they performed trick skating. Those who did not use knee pads had a nonsignificant increase in the risk of knee injury. The efficacy of helmets or automatic braking devices could not be assessed.

The authors conclude that in-line skaters should use safety gear, including wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads and helmets. In-line skating safety gear is widely available, comes in many sizes for children and adults and is relatively inexpensive. For skaters participating in roller hockey, currently available wrist guards may interfere with the ability to hold the stick firmly, and this problem should be addressed by further product development.

--KATHRYN M. ANDOLSEK, M.D., M.P.H. Schieber RA, et al. Risk factors for injuries from in-line skating and the effectiveness of safety gear. N Engl J Med 1996;335:1630-5.

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