Safety first on blades
Instructors, public health officials educate skaters about shredding asphalt
Seeing their kids looking less like banged-up roller derby participants on their in-line skates is something most parents would love to see.
That’s why instructors and public health officials are promoting a lead-by-example philosophy when strapping the little ones into the blades this summer.
“My attitude is the kids want to imitate what their parents do, that’s just the way kids are,” says certified in-line skate instructor Stephen Fisher. “I make a big deal out of making sure the parents are always wearing a helmet and hopefully pads also.
“They don’t necessarily want to but if parents don’t, the kids won’t want to either.”
The padding helps prevent injuries that commonly afflict wrists and forearms.
According to the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program, fractures represent 47.6 percent of all in-line skating injuries, of which 45.2 percent are to the forearm and 22.8 percent are to the wrists.
Less common but far worse injuries include those to the head and elbows, Fisher said.
“If your feet shoot forward, your head could snap back,” he said. “Also when you fall that way, your elbows tend to absorb an awful lot of momentum.
“Based on my experience, most of the serious injuries are in the elbow. People don’t like wearing elbow pads but I think it’s more important.”
Padding helps but education is key, said Toronto public health nurse Rebecca Lewis.
Her organization is promoting four steps parents can follow: learning how injuries occur, making environments safe, supervising kids’ activity and creating family safety rules.
“(The steps) are for parents to know the age and state of their child, of what their kid can do and to anticipate injuries,” she said. “You could go skating with your kid and use that as quality time as well.”
Parents also need to avoid a laissez-faire attitude when it comes to safety, Lewis added.
“Depending where the parents are at as far as attitudes will count in a way on injuries,” she said.
Lessons go a long way, too.
Fisher has kids and parents sit in a circle and compare blading with ice-skating in his beginner courses.
“There’s wind, stone, hills, and they start to discover it’s not exactly the same,” he said. “There are all these things that aren’t in a hockey rink.”
With an emphasis on safety, having fun can often be forgotten.
“Kids are amazingly resilient,” Fisher said. They can be just horrible the first day, they can just be spaghetti, they can’t stand up at all.
“And then within a week or two they are just flying along.”
With safety taken care of, Fisher said there’s one last item parents need to be aware of right from the onset: buying quality in-line skates.
He admitted parents have issues with dropping $100 or more for blades, but in the long run, if they go to a sports store over a department store, quality will be evident.
“They can buy (kids’ skates) so they’re extendable, so even if they’re going to spend $130 or whatever, it might last for a couple of seasons,” Fisher said. “But if they get a $39 pair at Canadian Tire, they won’t work at all, they don’t roll.
“The kid will develop terrible habits.”
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