Don't HIT (Ouch!) the Trail Without it!
Part 1: Breakfast for Stumpy
For a thousand days, you might get away with swimming carefree and happy around the Farallon Islands west of San Francisco. But on day one-thousand-and-one (or -two or some day thereafter), Stumpy is going to pay you a visit.
And my friend, when she does, it is not going to be pretty. Stumpy, in case you haven't seen the National Geographic special, is a 19-foot female great white shark. She rises to attack from a great depth and inflicts a massive wound that leaves her victims (mostly elephant seals) bleeding and helpless.
AKA (Also Know As): the Pavement
If you are inline skating without protective gear, you're kinda like that swimmer at the Farallons. Someday, a lurking menace --- in your case, the pavement --- is going to rise up and chomp you.
And that's why the International Inline Skating Association and all kind of other groups recommend wearing a full set of protective gear whenever you skate. That means wrist guards, knee pads, elbow pads and a helmet. This is a definite MUST for beginners, who are more prone to falling.
But at the very least, you should always wear wrist guards and a helmet. They may not be entirely comfortable ... they may not be hip. But in many cases, they will save you from serious injury or worse.
Protect Your Wrists
The most common serious injury suffered by inline skaters are broken wrists, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. These happen when skaters fall forward and use their hands to catch themselves on the pavement.
Wrist guards, in most cases, will prevent your wrist from breaking. It's hard plastic splint will kept your wrist from bending backward, especially if you do your best to slide forward on the wrist guard.
Keep Your Head Together
The most important, yet least worn, piece of protective gear for inline skaters is a helmet. Head injuries are less common than wrist, leg and hip injuries for inline skaters. But when they happen, look out! A broken wrist or leg may slow you down for a while. But a broken head could slow you done for good.
The famed speed skater and teacher Eddy Matzger tells the story of how he wore a helmet for eight years before he ever needed it. When he did, he fell so hard that his helmet cracked in two. "The only thing I could think as I lay on the pavement was how I'd have been a vegetable without it," he says. Instead, he walked away from the accident.
A Full Set of Gear
No matter how good you are, you are going to fall sometimes. Sooner or later, you are going to hit that twig or pebble ... or that dog will run out in front of you ... or your wheels will get caught in a crack --- and you will be sent flying. And when you hit the pavement, something's gotta give.
If you are wearing a full set of protective gear, you'll be able to offer the pavement, let's call him Mr. Bumpy, a little plastic, rather of a patch of your precious skin for his lunch.
Crash Pads Could Save Your ...
Beginner skaters should consider one further piece of protective gear: crash pads. These are heavily padded shorts that you wear under your clothing, similar to those worn by hockey players.
Beginning skaters have a tendency to fall on their backsides. When they feel that they are losing their balance, they tend to raise their shoulders and arch their backs, and this throws them backward as surely as if they had run into a low-hanging frying pan. These falls onto the backside are not only painful and dangerous but have led more than a few beginners to quit skating forever.
A better idea would be to buy some crash pads (about $35 a pair), and let the padding absorb the chomp of Mr. Bumpy's rough exterior.
• Protective Gear
Copyright © 2006 by Robert Burnson