Today's News

Saturday, February 24, 1996

Wrist guards may not prevent fractures to in-line skaters

In-line skaters should not rely solely on wrist guards to protect them from injury, warns a new study presented in scientific paper 32 on Thursday.

Wrist guards help protect against scrapes and abrasions, but more serious injuries such as fractures still can occur with or without the wrist guard on, says study co-author Frank B. Giacobetti, MD, orthopaedic resident, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia.

Dr. Giacobetti studied 40 cadaver arms with and without wrist guards to determine how effective they are in protecting against wrist fractures. Each arm was placed in a special hydraulic testing apparatus to simulate the pressure that occurs when an on-line skater falls on an outstretched arm.

The forces necessary to simulate a fall while in-line skating were determined for each arm.

"Radiographs were also taken to identify the types of fractures that occurred after being placed in the testing system."

The radiographs revealed distal radius (wrist) fractures in 38 of the 40 cadaver arms. Two cadaver arms, with and without wrist guards, sustained proximal radial fractures.

"We found no significant differences in the types of fractures sustained in the arms with or without the wrist guards," Dr. Giacobetti said. "Based on the experimental conditions of the study, currently available in-line skating wrist guards are not effective in preventing wrist fractures."

In-line skating is one of the fastest growing recreational sports in the United States. It is estimated that 19 million Americans over age six participated in the activity at least one time in 1994.

Hospital emergency rooms reported 76,116 in-line skating injuries in 1994, representing an increase of 106 percent from 1993. An estimated 105,000 in-line skating injuries are projected for 1995.

The cost of emergency room treatment due to in-line skating injuries in 1994 is estimated at $346 million. This does not include injuries treated in physicians' offices or bruises and scrapes that were never seen or treated.

"Encouraging manufacturers to make better protective gear is one of the primary purposes of the study," Dr. Giacobetti said.

In-line skaters also share the responsibility of protecting themselves against injury, he noted. "There are some safety measures they can follow every time," he said.

In-line skaters should:

Learn the basics of the sport, particularly how to stop properly, before venturing into vehicular or pedestrian traffic.

Continue to wear protective gear, including a helmet, wrist guards and knee and elbow pads.

If you feel that you are going to fall while skating, try to fall on your left or right side, instead of falling on an outstretched hand.

Perform warm-up exercises before and after skating.

Obey traffic signals, stay at the right side of the road, and do not weave in and out of lanes.

Avoid skating in crowded walkways.

Co-authors of the study, all from the department of orthopaedic surgery, Thomas Jefferson University, are Dr. Giacobetti; Peter F. Sharkey, MD; Eric L. Hume, MD; John S. Taras, MD; and Mary A. Bos, MD, chief resident, department of orthopaedics, New York University Medical Center, New York.

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Last modified 27/September/1996