Minimum Age Sought for Scooters, SkateboardsMar 4, 2002 | HealthScoutNews Skateboards and scooters are popular with kids and don't require a license to operate, but the nation's leading group of children's doctors thinks that even these motorless vehicles should have age limits.
Spurred by an increase in the number of riding accidents, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued an updated policy statement concerning the use of skateboards and scooters.
Specifically, the AAP states that skateboards should not be used by children under the age of 10 and that non-powered scooters should not be used by children under 8 unless supervised by an adult. Children younger than 5 should not use skateboards at all, the AAP urges.
The organization also recommends that all riders use a helmet as well as knee and elbow pads. Also, children should avoid riding on streets, at night, in traffic, or on any surfaces that have water, sand, gravel or dirt. Wrist guards should be used for skateboarding, but not for riding scooters because they may interfere with gripping the handlebars.
The number of individuals under the age of 20 injured while skateboarding surged from about 24,000 in 1994 to about 51,000 in 1999. In 1997, 1,500 children suffered injuries (usually to the head) that required hospitalization, according to the AAP.
The surge in scooter injuries, which went hand-in-hand with a surge in their popularity, has been even more sharp. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 40,500 people, the vast majority of them kids, were hurt in 2000. That figure more than doubled, to 84,400, between only January and September of last year. More than 90 percent of those injured were under the age of 15. The most commonly injured areas were ankle, wrist and face.
"We most often have fractures with the forearm," says Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and a member of the AAP's Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention. "Because of the way kids fall, they come to some type of sudden stop, cascade forward, and try to break their fall with their arms."
The same dynamic was at work with head injuries. "Kids' center of gravity is higher. They come to a sudden stop, fly forward; their arms usually don't have the strength to break the fall," explains Smith. "And because these kids are often scootering or skateboarding over concrete or another hard surface, that's a recipe for a head or brain injury." Hence, Smith says, the necessity of wearing a helmet.
In addition to the age recommendations, the AAP also cautions against "skitching rides" -- holding onto the side or rear of a moving vehicle while on a skateboard.
Not everyone is happy with the suggested restrictions.
"That's totally bogus. That's ridiculous," says Gautam Sahi, 27, a customer service representative for Skateboard.com, who has been skateboarding for 14 years. "I have skateboarded plenty of times with kids 10, 9 years old. It builds hand-eye coordination, motor skills, friendship. They're trying to put too many restrictions on what kids should be allowed to do and not to do."
The age "rules" are not hard and fast and depend on how mature the child is. "It's a balance of many things -- judgment, coordination, strength," says Smith. "That's going to be a very complex judgment the parent is going to have to make based on their child."
What To Do
Make sure your child has a helmet and that it fits well. Bike helmets that have met the requirements of the CSPC -- (look inside the helmet for confirmation) -- are acceptable, says Smith. The helmet should fit snugly and should rest just above the child's eyebrow so it covers the forehead. If the child shakes his head after the chin strap has been attached, the helmet should not ride down over the eyes or slip back and forth.