Skateboarding and the Risk of Brain Injury

The arrival of warm weather brings fun outdoor activities with it. For scores of teenagers that means hours of rolling around on skateboards and long boards. Just ride through virtually any suburb and you will find crowded skateboard parks, a group of kids sneaking in a ride through the local shopping center parking lot and a few kids riding down the middle of the neighborhood streets. Skateboarding is a widespread activity, enjoyed by teenage girls and boys alike. But along with the physical activity it provides, skateboarding also comes with possibilities of injury, including traumatic brain injuries.

What you don’t see often enough when observing skateboarders are helmets. Even in jurisdictions where helmets are mandatory, many riders are not wearing them to their own detriment. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were more than 130,000 skateboard injuries in 2010. Forty-six percent of those injuries occurred in children under the age of 15-years-old. When these accidents result in blows to the head, traumatic brain injuries can occur.

One particular study by Brigham Young University found that long boarding, which uses a longer and wider board, poses a particular risk of brain injuries. Researchers evaluated 824 injuries between 2006 and 2011. More than half of these incidents occurred on long boards and among them, there was a significantly higher risk of head fractures and traumatic brain injuries.

Even though medical professionals advise that helmets be worn when skateboarding, many states do not have statutes mandating their use. Illinois is one of them. Nevertheless, parents can still provide their children with proper safety equipment while skateboarding.

When choosing a helmet, the National Safety Council offers the following tips:

Look for a proper fit Choose a helmet with a chin strap Test whether the helmet blocks the rider’s vision or hearing Check the padding in the helmet If the padding is too tight, it can restrict free movement of the head and affect circulation If the padding is too loose, the helmet can move around, lessening its safety effectiveness.

Skateboard Accident Liability

Another issue of concern with skateboarding is the liability of the landowner. Under the legal theory of premises liability, if a skateboarding accident occurs on a person’s land, that owner can be held liable for the injuries of the rider. This not only applies to private residences, but also to locations that are open to the public.

Proving liability is a challenge though and the assistance of an experienced attorney is vital. There are various immunity laws and provisions to overcome. In some states, skateboarding is classified as a “hazardous recreational activity”, which shields property owners from liability in specific situations. Skateboard parks are often owned by public entities, like the state or locality, which carries its own set of legal challenges. Though these facilities are largely unsupervised, they commonly post signs posted advising riders that they are using the ramps at their own risk.

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