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Orthopedics

Bicycling, Inline Skating, Skateboarding, and Scooter Safety—Prevention

Buying the right bike

It's important that the bike your child rides is the right size. In addition, consider the following advice:

  • The bike shouldn't be too big or complicated.

  • Your child should be able to place the balls of their feet on the ground when sitting on the seat.

  • The bike should have a bell or horn.

Buying the right helmet

Helmet costs vary and can be costly. But they can save money by possibly preventing a visit to your child's healthcare provider or the emergency room. They also may save lives. When shopping for a helmet, take your child with you—a child will be more likely to wear a helmet if they pick it out. Helmets should meet the following requirements:

  • The helmet should be approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials or the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Approved helmets meet strict safety standards.

  • Your child should like the helmet. Bright-colored helmets with stickers are very popular. This will increase the likelihood that your child will wear it consistently.

  • The helmet should fit your child's head so that when the straps are snug, the helmet does not move around on the head.

Some helmets are multisport. This means that they can be used for inline skating, skateboarding, biking, or other wheel sports. Helmets that specifically are called "bike helmets" are designed only for that sport. Helmets come in many sizes and varieties, including many infant sizes.

Correct helmet wear

Helmets come with sponge pads to adjust the fit on your child's head. A correctly-fitted helmet should meet these requirements:

  • The helmet should fit snug, not moving on the head.

  • The front edge of the helmet should be 2 finger widths above the eyebrows.

  • Front and back straps of the helmet should form a V just below the ear.

  • Front straps should be vertical and the rear straps should be flat.

  • The chinstrap should be snug when your child opens their mouth. When the straps are fastened, 2 fingers should fit between the strap and the chin.

Road rules

Most bicycle crashes happen because the child breaks a traffic rule. So it's important to teach your child the traffic and road rules. Besides wearing a bike helmet, teach your child to:

  • Stop before riding into traffic from a driveway, sidewalk, parking lot, or other street.

  • Look left, right, and left again to check for cars.

  • If the road is clear, enter.

  • Ride on the far right of the road, with traffic.

  • Ride so cars can see you. Wear brightly colored or reflective clothes, especially at night.

  • Obey all traffic signals and stop signs.

  • Look back and yield to traffic coming from behind before turning left.

  • Ride bikes in single file.

  • Look for uneven pavement or other surface problems.

Note: Try not to let your child ride their bike, inline skates, or skateboard when it's dark or during bad weather. If your child does ride at night, make sure their bike has a headlight, flashing taillight, and reflective tape or reflectors. Also make sure your child wears reflective clothing or has reflective tape on their clothes.

Inline skates

Even experienced inline skaters can crash and suffer injuries. Here is some advice from safety organizations:

  • Always wear protective gear, such as elbow and knee pads, gloves, sport-appropriate helmets, and wrist guards.

  • Buy durable skates with the correct ankle support.

  • Always warm up your muscles before skating by skating slowly for 5 minutes or more.

  • Skate with knees slightly bent to maintain balance.

  • Practice stopping. This is done by bringing the foot with the heel stop forward until the heel stop is level with the toes of the other foot. Then bend the front knee and lift the front foot's toes.

  • Always skate on the right side of sidewalks and other paths.

  • Pass on the left and warn others that you are passing.

  • Don't skate in the street, especially where there is a lot of traffic.

  • Look for uneven pavement or other surface problems.

  • Check your skates regularly for wear and tear. Make sure the wheels are tightened.

Skateboards

Skateboards should never be used on surface streets. Even experienced skateboarders can fall. So learning how to fall safely can help reduce the risk of severe injuries. Follow this advice on how to fall correctly:

  • When losing your balance, crouch down on the skateboard so your fall is short.

  • Try to land on fleshy parts of your body when falling.

  • Try to roll as you fall. This prevents your arms from absorbing all the force.

  • Try to relax, rather than staying stiff when falling.

When riding a skateboard, children should obey all traffic rules. Other safety measures to take when skateboarding include:

  • Wear protective gear, such as sport-appropriate helmets, padding, and closed-toe and slip-resistant shoes.

  • Check the skateboard for wear and tear.

  • Only allow 1 person per skateboard.

  • Don't hitch rides from bikes, cars, or other vehicles.

  • Carefully practice tricks in special skateboarding areas.

Scooters

Manual (push) scooters have been around since the 1950s. Today's scooters include motorized and electric models often made of lightweight material. They have quickly risen in popularity. And they are the cause of more and more emergency room visits. Health officials have seen a dramatic rise in scooter-related accidents and injuries. The most common injuries are breaks (fractures) or dislocations of the arm or hand, followed by cuts, bruises, strains, and sprains. Almost half of all injuries tend to happen to the arm or hand. About 1 in 4 injuries is to the head. Another 1 in 4 happen to the leg or foot. Deaths directly related to scooter accidents have also happened.

The National Safe Kids campaign advises the same safety measures for scooters as for bicycling and inline skating. Many injuries might be prevented or not be as severe if protective equipment is worn. Wrist guards help prevent injuries among inline skaters. But the protection they provide against injury for scooter riders is unknown. That's because wrist guards may make it hard to grip the scooter handle and steer it.

Based on injury prevention for other related activities, these tips may help to prevent scooter-related injuries:

  • Wear an approved helmet that meets safety standards. Use knee and elbow pads.

  • Ride scooters on smooth, paved surfaces without traffic. Don't ride on streets and surfaces with water, sand, gravel, or dirt.

  • Don't ride scooters at night.

Riding a scooter requires balance and coordination. Children younger than 8 years old shouldn't ride a scooter. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under age 16 shouldn't ride motorized or electric scooters.

Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2020
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