Eyecare Tips

Ice Skaters More Likely To Suffer Head Injuries Than Roller/Inline Skaters When They Fall

November 07, 2017

As the winter Olympics begin and interest in ice-skating increases, more children will head to the local skating rinks. However, most parents are unaware that young ice-skaters are nearly five times more likely to suffer head and facial injuries than roller/in-line skaters. A recent study conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus Children's Hospital found that 13% of ice-skaters who fall hit their head on the ice while only 3% of roller/in-line skaters who fall hit their head on the ground. The research results are published in the February issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

"During a video analysis of skating falls, we found that both ice-skaters and roller/in-line skaters tend to fall forward and almost all attempt to break their falls with their arms or hands," explained Christy Knox, research associate in the Center for Injury Research and Policy. "However, because ice skating occurs on a low friction surface, attempts to break falls with the arms and hands are often unsuccessful, resulting in the head hitting the ice leading to head and face injuries."

While helmets and wrist guards have long been recommended protective gear for inline and roller skaters, no such recommendations currently exist for ice-skaters.

"An immediate reaction would be to require similar gear in ice-skaters, but because most ice-skating falls are forward in direction, the standard helmet may not adequately protect the ice skater's face and front of the head from hitting the skating surface." Knox said. "For the most effective protection, ice-skaters would need to wear a hockey-style helmet with a facemask, which most children would be unlikely to do."

As the cause of injury is the head striking the skating surface, a helmet acts only as a secondary prevention mechanism to reduce the risk of injury once the head hits the ground.

Therefore, these researchers have focused their efforts on designing a wrist guard with a non-slip palm that would serve as a primary prevention mechanism against head and facial injuries.

The wrist guard feature would protect against upper extremity fractures and the attached non-slip palm would prevent the outstretched hands from slipping on the ice during attempts to break a fall, thus keeping the head from striking the ice.

Knox said, "We are working to patent a new type of protective gear - a wrist guard with a non-slip palm - which should decrease the incidence of ice skating-related facial and head injuries. While this protective equipment device is not yet on the market, we hope it will be available soon. In the mean time, the best advice we can offer parents is that children should wear a well-fitted appropriately worn helmet while ice-skating to reduce the risk of head injuries."