Off-road skating and mountainboarding have both gotten popular over the last decade.
As expected, some people look for ways to make it even more extreme whenever something becomes popular. That is exactly what happened to skating. Today, what was once a preserve of an asphalt road is now dominating the offroad industry. Mountain boards, off-road skateboards, and longboards up your skating style and take you away from street skating to rough terrain.
Of course, once something goes extreme in this way, we start asking ourselves difficult yet obvious questions.
- How dangerous is off road skating? Is it safe?
- If not, what can we do to make it safer?
Such are the questions that surround offroad skating. Because it involves traveling at high speeds on a board with wheels, skating is inherently dangerous, to a point.
However, is it so dangerous that we can’t enjoy it?
How Dangerous is Off Road Skating?
Let’s take a quick look at some statistics and facts about skating that might shed light on just how dangerous this sport might be.
- In the U.S, skateboarding is the 8th most dangerous sport after popular options such as football, basketball, and cycling.
- The most common injuries in skating include broken wrists, rolled ankles, twisted knees, and some minor head injuries.
- Between 2011 and 2015, around 147 skateboarding deaths were reported in the U.S alone. Almost all of them occurred because the skateboarders were skating on the road.
- 74% of all skateboarding injuries are to the extremities.
- A third of all skateboarding injuries affect newcomers.
- Only around 5% of all skateboarding injuries are severe and almost all of these severe injuries involve accidents with vehicles on the road.
As you can see, as a stand-alone sport, skating isn’t that dangerous. Almost all fatalities involve collisions with other vehicles as opposed to simply falling off your skateboard.
That, however, doesn’t mean that skating isn’t dangerous in its own right. Rolled ankles, twisted wrists, and fractured extremities are no joke. As a result, skating can be just as much fun as it can be dangerous.
Most Common Offroad Skating Injuries
Based on the data available, the most common offroad skating injuries include:
- Abrasions and bruises
- Head injuries
- Hand, wrist, or shoulder injuries
- Ankle and knee injuries
Abrasions and bruises often occur when you fall off your skateboard and land on asphalt, rough roads, or a rough surface on the track. In some cases, falling off your mountain board when you are going down the side of a dirt trail, paved trail, or even gravel roads at high speed could lead to extreme grass burn if you land on a grass-covered surface. If you land on nothing but gravel, you could very well bleed.
Other injuries, such as hand, wrist, and shoulder injuries, often occur when skaters try to break their fall by stretching out their hands. We highly advise against doing this at all costs. There are ways you can fall without using your hands and limbs to break your fall when outdoor skating.
Here’s a video showing you how to fall properly off your skateboard:
Knee or ankle injuries are also quite common when skating. These injuries typically occur when you don’t adequately warm up before getting on your skateboard. This means that your body might not be agile enough should you need to perform an emergency maneuver to keep yourself from falling off your skateboard.
The most severe forms of skateboard injuries are head injuries. These often come in the form of concussions for severe falls or minor headaches and bumps for minor falls. The worst type of head injury, however, could lead to death.
How Skating Injuries Occur
Learning how offroad skating injuries occur will give you insight on how to better minimize or prevent these occurrences. Whenever you fall off your skateboard, many factors lead to that fall. Here are some of the most common ways offroad skating injuries occur.
Riding Beyond Your Skating Skill Level
It’s safe to say that offroad skating is a bit more demanding, although it is similar to regular skating or rollerblading. The biggest difference is that with outdoor skating you will be riding on rough terrain and dirt roads. When riding in a skate park, you know that the path is paved. You will see if it’s straight or if there is a ramp coming up ahead, and you will be prepared for it.
The same isn’t the case when riding offroad. In some cases, what may seem like a flat, even path might conceal a sandpit or a loose rock that can easily put you off balance and cause you to fall.
Another major issue is riding beyond your specific skill level. This is a mistake that most beginner skaters make, especially when they take up mountain boarding for the first time. Going down the side of a hill at break-neck speeds is one of the main reasons why many people take up mountain boarding in the first place. The problem is that, at those speeds, you don’t have much control over your mountain board or skateboard. You will find coming to a stop or taking a sharp turn without falling over very challenging.
That’s why it’s important to skate within your skill level. If you are a beginner, ride at speeds that give you better control over your skateboard instead of going faster than you are comfortable going.
Riding in Traffic
Some people enjoy skating in an urban setting, which often means enduring human and vehicle traffic. This kind of traffic is not within our control. It doesn’t matter how careful a rider you are, a reckless driver or absent-minded pedestrian might just crash into you.
Another issue to consider is that most people don’t have that much experience with skating, meaning they won’t be aware of how fast you’re going when riding one. If you crash into them, they won’t be able to tell. This interferes with their ability to calculate the distance you can cover. There’s a good chance that they will underestimate your speed and not get out of the way in time. In such cases, you will have to either take a quick turn or find another way to avoid hitting them, which could lead to an accident.
To avoid this, stay away from traffic, both human and vehicle, as much as possible. If you simply must interact with this traffic, try as much as you can to ride at reasonably low speeds. That gives you better control of your skateboard and gives pedestrians or drivers enough time to avoid colliding with you.
Bad Weather and Poor Visibility
Bad weather and poor visibility are some of the leading causes of road accidents today. These variables are just as bad for skaters as they are for motorists. It might even be said that it’s worse for skateboarders because they don’t have the luxury of being protected by the windshield.
There are no workarounds for riding in bad weather and poor visibility except for not doing so. As much as possible, avoid skating when it’s raining, snowing, extremely windy, or even dark.
The ultimate thrill of mountain boarding or offroad skating comes from going as fast as you possibly can through different types of terrain. Unfortunately, such conditions also present the ultimate challenge and the highest risk for accidents and injuries.
There’s a phenomenon in the skating world called “speed wobbles.” This occurs when you don’t have the strength or experience to hold your skateboard straight when riding at high speed.
Think about it this way: when you are riding at high speeds, every little movement your body makes is amplified through the skateboard and onto the wheels. That little twitch of your ankle might translate as a command to turn at the worst possible moment, causing you to fall off the board.
Another issue is that most beginners don’t have the experience or strength to keep their skateboards balanced or straight at high speeds. Your ankles and calf muscles are not conditioned enough for the physical demand. Once they start giving way, your skateboard will start shaking and speed wobbles will occur, increasing your likelihood of falling over. Here are some tips and tricks to neutralize speed wobbles when they occur.
- Gently turn in one direction. Consciously carving your skateboard will often steady it and stop the wobbles.
- Slowly, try to reduce your speed without coming to an abrupt stop.
- Check to see that your skateboard trucks aren’t loose. Loose trucks increase the wobbles. If they are loose, tighten them just enough to keep the wobbles at bay, but not too tight to make turning the board a chore.
- Practice riding your skateboard as much as possible to work on stability. This will strengthen your calves and ankles over time, reducing the chances of speed wobbles occurring.
- Stay calm and relaxed when they do occur. Tensing up will only make matters worse.
How to Minimize Skating Accidents and Injuries
You can argue that almost anything worth doing in this world carries some inherent risk. The trick is finding ways to minimize the risk so that your injuries are minor or very far in between. When it comes to skating, the basic guidelines apply, whether you are offroad skating, speed skating, roller skating, or inline skating.
Here are some tips and tricks you can apply to minimize skating injuries.
Learn the Basics and Focus on Your Technique
This is one of the most important points on this list. As is the case with anything you do, or at the very least want to do well, learning the basics and focusing on your technique will save you a great deal of grief. When it comes to skating, it will save you a great deal of pain and suffering.
The problem with most people is that they see professional skaters or people who have enough experience doing a lot of tricks on TV or YouTube and they assume they can do it too because it looks easy. The issue with that train of thought is that most of the tricks you see professionals perform aren’t easy at all. They just make them look easy because they took the time to learn the basics and practiced until they mastered them.
If you are keen, you will see that now and then, even the professionals mess it up and end up falling off their skateboards. That’s how important the basics are to every person who wants to learn how to ride their skateboard well.
Experiment with Various Braking Techniques.
Coming to a complete stop safely using a toe stop or other methods is one of the most important skills to learn as a skateboarding enthusiast. There are many ways to come to a stop.
Here’s a video giving you a few great ideas:
Wear Safety Equipment at All Times
There are no two ways about this: you need to wear protective gear when off-road skating on rough terrain or any uneven surface. These include:
- A well-fitting helmet
- Elbow pads,
- Shoulder pads
- Knee pads
- Goggles to protect your eyes
- Well-fitting shoes and socks
- Tough gloves
You could even wear tough clothes that can take the fall without exposing your skin to the grazes that might occur afterward.
Is off-road skating dangerous? Absolutely. But it’s also a great deal of fun, and you can mitigate the associated dangers by considering these tips and practicing.