Health

Helmet call for skaters

ALEXANDRA NEWBIGIN

May 31, 2012

A resurgence in skateboarding is being accompanied by calls for helmets to be made compulsory.

Western Australian law does not require skateboarders to wear a helmet. However, it does forbid them from travelling on roads with a speed limit over 50km or on any roads after dark.

A 2009 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey found that 55.9 per cent of boys and 43.4 per cent of girls aged 5 to 14 used skateboards, rollerblades, or  a scooter.

Ian Mcglynn has been skateboarding in Perth for about 15 years and says the laws do not provide enough protection.

“With more and more people using skateboards on the streets, I think helmets should be compulsory,” Mcglynn said.

“Long-boarding is the fastest growing sector of the skateboarding industry.

“It’s getting huge.”

Mcglynn said this meant that more and more youths were skating at higher speeds down hills.

“Safety is going to become an even bigger issue,” he said.

He said he always wore a helmet when he skated on the street.

“In a skatepark, conditions are controlled, but streets can be really unpredictable,” Mcglynn said.

A 2004 Monash University report found that only 13 per cent of skateboarders wore any protective gear.

Mcglynn said a helmet had saved his life many times.

“The law is telling kids they don’t need to wear one, so they don’t think about the risks,” he said.

“Making helmets compulsory would be ideal because it would send people the right message.”

The Monash Injury Research Institute found that in Victoria an average of 957 emergency department presentations a year were for skateboard related injuries.

Executive officer of Brain Injury Australia Nick Rushworth is developing a campaign to encourage skateboarders to wear helmets.

“There is a range of physicians and health professionals with major concerns in this area,” Mr Rushworth said.

“We need to come up with a sophisticated message because we’re looking at young people who don’t want to be differentiated from their peers.

“We want to target kids who are skating at night or on city streets.

“There are lots of risks involved.”

Mr Rushworth said skateboarders received a lot of mixed messages.

He said prominent skateboarder Tony Hawk always wore a helmet but images in magazines and advertisements almost always feature skateboarders who did not.

Mcglynn agrees that skateboarding culture does not encourage safety.

“It’d be great to get the skateboarding industry behind helmets, but I doubt it’ll happen,” he said.

“The problem is that most skaters are young guys who think they’re invincible.

“Unfortunately it often takes something really tragic for people to realise how important this is.”

A Western Australian Police spokesperson said skateboarders generally obeyed the laws and used their common sense to stay safe.

Photos of Ian Mcglynn skateboarding by Alexandra Newbigin.

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