Safety advice for skate park operators

It should be appreciated that skateboarding is a hazardous activity and that accidents will always occur.

Indeed in some parts of the world, California for example, it is officially recognised by law as being a 'Hazardous Recreational Activity' alongside such sports as Hang Gliding, Skydiving etc. This has the side effect of giving considerable legal protection to skate park operators and helps to encourage provision of sites.

RoSPA will normally Risk Assess all skate parks as being high risk. That does not mean that we do not approve of them, Just that we recognise that accidents are going to occur.

Whilst acknowledging that in putting in a skateboard facility you are going to have accidents occurring, it should also be recognised that the number and severity of accidents that will occur to participants in wheeled sports in the area will be much higher IF such a facility is not provided. The main statistics for skateboarding are from the USA . They show that between January 1992 to June 1995 there were 25 deaths due to in line skating and 100 deaths involving BMX bikes etc. 90% of these involved collisions with motor vehicles. The numbers of fatalities on skateboards was too small to be recorded nationally and are almost exclusively due to collisions with motor vehicles.

To put things into perspective, there were 35,788 skateboard injuries in 1996 and 156,681 football (soccer) related injuries (again in the USA). However skateboarding injuries tend to be more serious than football related ones. 1/3 rd of all skateboarding injuries occur at weekends.

The average age of skateboarders is between 13 and 14 and they participate in the sport on average 50.8 days in the year. 90% of them are male and 60% are under 15.

Sprains, fractures, contusions and abrasions are the most common form of injury. 74% of injuries were to the extremities. Among these broken wrists (19%), ankles (11%), face (16%) and long bone fractures are the most common injuries. Head Injuries accounted for around 20% of all injuries. Serious injuries, concussion, blunt trauma, skull fracture or closed head injuries represented 3.1% of all injuries to skateboarders. Most serious injuries would have been prevented if correct protective gear had been worn.

About 1/3 of those injured have less than one weeks experience of the sport. – so keep a close eye when you first open a new facility. The most commonly hurt participants are those with over one year's experience.

Accidental falls due to loss of balance are the most common with about half of falls due to rough riding surface. Small stones, sticks, bumps and holes in or on the riding surface are the leading cause of falls of experienced riders.

Underdeveloped motor co-ordination is the main cause of falls to younger and less experienced riders. In addition, the smaller the child the higher is their centre of gravity due to the larger proportion of their head to body. Because of this, and the inability of less developed children to brace properly for a fall, head injuries account for a much higher proportion of injuries for skater under 10.

However not all skateboarders are young. In the USA in 1996 there were 165 participants hospitalised who were aged over 65!

Most statistics courtesy of US Consumer Products Safety Commission.

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Playsafety Ltd *
+44 (0)1793 317470
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* RoSPA’s activities in the area of play safety are carried out under an exclusive licence arrangement by an independent and highly experienced specialist company, “Playsafety Ltd” which trades under such licence as “RoSPA Play Safety”.