Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) result from some manner of force applied to the human head. In this respect, the word trauma refers to an injury cause by a physical force applied outside of the body. A direct impact or a violent acceleration/deceleration can cause the brain to collide with the inside surface of the skull. The majority of all traumatic brain injury cases involve concussions, particularly among youth.
TBI in children can produce serious damage in young, still-developing brain tissue. A large percentage of youth participation in sports like football and soccer contribute to a higher occurrence of TBI, mostly concussions, in adolescents and pre-adolescents. Most teens and pre-teens sustain concussions as a result of participation in contact sports and recreational activities such as biking, rollerblading, and skateboarding.
Recent data gathered toward the end of 2013 concluded that skateboarding has become more popular than baseball among today’s teenagers. According to American Sports Data, last year, some 10.6 million teens under the age of 18 owned skateboards.
One of the factors believed to be behind the increase in catastrophic injuries and fatalities is a surge in the number or recreational skateboarders, according to a study released last month by the Journal of Trauma. In 2011, 52% of skateboarding injuries involve kids below age 15, with more than 78,000 injuries requiring emergency room visits, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
The National Safety Council says children and teens are no longer just being seen for minor sprains and fractures. Traumatic brain injuries and severe concussion, some resulting in permanent injury and death, are raising concerns among health care professionals. Skateboarding ranks fifth in the top 10 sports-related activities leading to head injuries in children ages 14 or younger.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported that more than 50% of all skateboarding injuries come from riding on irregular surfaces. Street riders are also contending with traffic at times, which can be a recipe for disaster. In response, many municipalities are building public skate parks – designated safe skating areas with dips, jumps, and regular angles better suited for skater safety.
Nearly 50% of skateboarding injuries also have some type of head injury involvement, according to Dr. Michael Webb, executive director of the NeuroTexas Institute at St. David’s HealthCare. Many studies and experience shows that injuries really run the gamut, from contusions, lacerations, Achilles ruptures, back muscle strains and sprains to fractures, concussions and other head injuries, knee injuries, calf muscle tears, rotator cuff injuries, stress fractures and overuse injuries.
A minor bruise, sprain, abrasion or small cut can be taken care of at home, but beyond that, parents should ensure their child is evaluated by a medical professional – especially in any case of a suspected concussion or head injury.
Parents must understand that many skateboarding injuries require physical therapy to recover. It’s up to parents to make sure a recovering child sticks to the recovery plan and the schedule diligently prior to resuming any strenuous activity or before getting back on a board. A qualified physician will determine when rehabilitation is complete and when it’s okay to return to a sport or activity. This is especially important with any child recovering from a traumatic brain injury.
Prevention is a big part of safety in skateboarding. First, you need to know that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that children younger than 5-years-old should never ride a skateboard. The AAP also advises that 6-10-year-olds should never be allowed to skateboard without close supervision from an adult or an older child who the adults are confident is responsible enough to be left in charge.
Helmets are a must for skateboarding safety. The National Safety Council recommends choosing a helmet based on safety standards and one that is adjustable with strong straps and a buckle. Ask for help from a sales person to ensure the helmet is properly fitted. Loose helmets do very little to protect the head in the event of a fall. Also ensure any helmet bears a sticker that says it meets the ASTMF1492 skateboard helmet standard.