How Dangerous Is Skateboarding, Really?

How Dangerous Is Skateboarding, Really?

Parents with kids who are begging for a skateboard want to know: how dangerous is skateboarding, really? Many will be shocked to learn skateboards cause fewer injuries each year than bikes, swimming pools, playground and exercise equipment, and most team sports.

There are tens of thousands of skateboard "wipeout" videos and pictures online, and the Jackass TV series and movies showcase some pretty hair-raising skate tricks gone bad too. All of which leads many people to conclude skateboarding is an extreme, and extremely dangerous, sport. As it turns out, actual injury statistics don't bear that out.

Skateboarding is actually less dangerous than many activities most people assume are generally safe, like bicycling, soccer, basketball, or even just using exercise equipment.

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Injury Statistics

The CPSC collects injury statistics via its National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), and releases an annual report of those statistics to the public. From the most recently available report, for 2014:

CPSC's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) collects current injury data associated with consumer products from U.S. hospital emergency departments across the country. Consisting of a national probability sample of hospitals of differing sizes and locations, NEISS provides national estimates of the number and types of consumer product-related injuries.

The report also includes the actual injury counts used as the basis for NEISS's estimates.  The table below excerpts some of the actual injury counts from in the 2014 NEISS report. While skateboarding carries certain risks, just like any form of physical activity or sport, you may be surprised to see how its risks stack up against other common sports and outdoor activities.

Sport / Activity  Actual 2014 Injury Count
Child Nursery Equipment 3,240
Baseball, Softball 5,766
Basketball 15,586
Bicycles & Accessories 14,289
Exercise, Exercise Equipment 12,184
Football 11,645
Playground Equipment 7,999
Skateboards 2,904
Soccer 7,574
Swimming, Pools, Equipment 3,853
Trampolines 3,084

Remember, these statistics cover ALL injury data collected from the participating hospital emergency rooms, so that means it includes injuries sustained by people who weren't wearing proper safety equipment or observing proper safety precautions.

Helmets and Skate Parks Maximize Safety

Safe Kids Worldwide doesn't track skateboard injury statistics specifically, but it does release an annual Bicycle, Skate and Skateboard Safety Fact Sheet that includes skateboarders in the statistics. The 2016 Fact Sheet finds that:

  • Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by at least 45 percent, brain injury by 33 percent, facial injury by 27 percent and fatal injury by 29 percent.
  • Boys ages 10 to 14 years are almost three times less likely to wear a helmet than boys ages 5 to 9 years; this difference in helmet wearing behavior is not found between girls in the same age groups.
  • A child...with companions wearing helmets or adults in general, regardless if the adult is wearing a helmet or not, is more likely to wear a helmet himself.

Skaters for Public Skate Parks releases an annual report of skateboarding fatalities, and the overwhelming majority of incidents involve skaters being hit by vehicles in streets and on unpaved shoulders, often with a drunk driver behind the wheel. The second most common cause of skateboarding fatalities is "skitching", the dangerous practice of hanging on to some part of a moving vehicle while riding a skateboard to hitch a ride. The third most common cause of skateboard deaths is "downhill bombing", or riding down extremely steep inclines (often the same streets used by cars, trucks and motorcycles) on a longboard at top speed.

Skitching and downhill bombing are so widely known to be unsafe that many cities and counties have banned or outlawed these practices.

Since the reporting began, in 2011, only one skateboarding fatality has occurred in a skate park and the victim was not wearing a helmet.

Bottom line: skateboarding is no more dangerous, and is actually safer, than many other common sporting activities, provided the skater: wears a helmet, sticks to skateparks, sidewalks and paved, off-street surfaces, and doesn't engage in unsafe practices like skitching or downhill bombing.

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