Tips for staying safe on skateboards

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Skateboard accidents send 50,000 Americans to emergency rooms every year. More kids and adults keep pushing their limits on their boards, which equates to more crashes.

Pete McDonnel loves almost everything about skateboarding, the speed and the jumps. But the falls, not so much.

"I basically just went tumbling forward in the middle of the street," he said.

Pete's crash fractured a bone in his elbow.

"When I woke up the next day, I noticed that I couldn't actually bend my elbow completely straight," he said.

Doctors say injuries like Pete's are common among skateboarders.

"It can really run the whole spectrum, from finger to wrist to elbow," said Dr. Robert Wysocki, an orthopedic surgeon for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center.

Kids under the age of 15 make up more than half of all skateboard injuries and 85 percent are boys. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't want any child five or younger riding boards. And while adults may skate safer than kids, their bones are more brittle.

"Adolescents and children have rubber coating to their bones that make them much less susceptible to fracture," said Dr. Mark Cohen, an orthopedic surgeon for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center.

A helmet, along with elbow, wrist, and knee pads, help make skateboarding safer. So does knowing your limits and pre-planning your moves. And if you do fall, try to land on your forearms, not your hands.

"Maybe doing a dry run or two and then doing it maybe at half speed before you get up to full speed," said Dr. John J. Fernandez, an orthopedic surgeon for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center.

Pete's rehab lasted months and required physical and occupational therapy.

"Just being on the skateboard again feels great," he said.

But he's happy he's rolling again.

Some other ways to stay safe on your board include wearing closed-toed shoes with slip- resistant soles and goggles to keep debris out of your eyes. For more safety tips, go to www.skatesafer.org.

If you would like more information, check out the medical breakthroughs on the web at www.ivanhoe.com.
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