Background: Of the estimated 22.5 million people participating in in-line skating in the United States in 1995, about 100,000 were sufficiently injured so as to require emergency department care. We investigated the effectiveness of wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads, and helmets in preventing skating injuries.
Methods: We used data from the 91 hospital emergency departments participating in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a national probability sample of randomly selected hospitals with 24-hour emergency departments. Injured in-line skaters who sought medical attention between December 1992 and July 1993 were interviewed by telephone. We conducted a case-control study of skaters who injured their wrists, elbows, knees, or heads as compared with skaters with injuries to other parts of their bodies.
Results: Of 206 eligible injured subjects, 161 (78 percent) were interviewed. Wrist injuries were the most common (32 percent); 25 percent of all injuries were wrist fractures. Seven percent of injured skaters wore all the types of safety gear; 46 percent wore none. Forty-five percent wore knee pads, 33 percent wrist guards, 28 percent elbow pads, and 20 percent helmets. The odds ratio for wrist injury, adjusted for age and sex, for those who did not wear wrist guards, as compared with those who did, was 10.4 (95 percent confidence interval, 2.9 to 36.9). The odds ratio for elbow injury, adjusted for the number of lessons skaters had had and whether or not they performed trick skating, was 9.5 (95 percent confidence interval, 2.6 to 34.4) for those who did not wear elbow pads. Non-use of knee pads was associated with a nonsignificant increase in the risk of knee injury (crude odds ratio, 2.2; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.7 to 7.2). The effectiveness of helmets could not be assessed.
Conclusions: Wrist guards and elbow pads are effective in protecting in-line skaters against injuries.