Hi, Dennis: Our sport is somewhat dangerous under certain conditions and circumstances. But it’s no more dangerous than many other sports.
One thing we have going for us is a strict rule requiring safety helmets. This prevents a lot of serious injuries.
One thing that has made our sport more dangerous is 110mm wheels. Driven by industry pressure, the World Inline Cup began allowing their use about eight years ago. And then, at the the 2005 World Championships in China, the speed committee of the world governing body caved to pressure and also gave the green light to 110s.
The main problem with 110s is also the reason skaters like them. They make it easier to reach and maintain high speeds.
Unfortunately, the faster you go, the harder you fall. And the difference is exponential. As in a car crash, for every 10 kilometers per hour of extra speed, crash damage is doubled.
Another problem is that 110s are harder to control. When they first appeared, big and strong skaters gained an advantage because they had the strength to push the big wheels. But they often lacked the skill and finesse to skate in a fast-moving paceline. And as a result, they often triggered large, multi-skater crashes.
Another thing I don’t like about 110s is that they discriminate against skaters with small feet (size 38 — US size 6 — and under). A 4x110mm skate has a long wheelbase, which is difficult for a skater with small foot to handle. But use them they must or they will find themselves “out rolled” by by skaters on 110s.
Another concern I have about 110s is that they may be damaging to ankles. There is some evidence this is happening, although nothing conclusive yet.
The most common serious injuries for skaters continues to be broken wrists and broken or dislocated collar bones. Most broken wrists could be prevented with the use of wrist guards. But as you probably know, most racers decline to wear them.
At our club in Timaru, we have had a rash of injuries this year. First, two skaters crashed, one breaking a collarbone; the other, a wrist. Then, at the Oceania Championships, another of our skater fell, breaking a collarbone.
Sometimes, it’s external factors that cause injuries. For instance, at the 2008 World Championships in Spain, an overly grippy track was to blame.
When skaters fell on it, they didn’t slide. As a result, their bodies absorbed the full impact, resulting in lots of fractures.
But don’t let me scare you. Yes, skating can be dangerous. But no more so than many other modern day sport, including cycling and skiing.