NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Nearly half of adolescent inline skaters, skateboarders and snowboarders say nothing would convince them to wear personal protective equipment, according to a new survey of Wisconsin teens.
“This raises the question of whether personal protective equipment in extreme sports should be mandatory,” Dr. Erica L. Kroncke of ThedaCare Physicians in Oshkosh and her colleagues, the survey’s authors, write. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, they note, helmets could prevent or reduce the severity of nearly half of the 16,000 head injuries due to snowboarding and skiing that occur every year.
Kroncke and her colleagues surveyed 333 13- to 18-year-olds about whether they used helmets, wrist guards, elbow pads, or knee pads (and goggles for snowboarders) when engaging in extreme sports. About two-thirds of the teens were male.
Sixty percent of the inline skaters surveyed said they “never” or “rarely” used helmets, or only used them when they were required, compared to 65% of skateboarders and 72% of snowboarders. Percentages for other types of protective gear were higher, the researchers report in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.
Overall, snowboarders used the least protective gear, while boys and girls were equally likely to use protective gear.
Most commonly, participants who used protective gear cited rules or requirements, or their parents, as their reason for doing so. Friends were cited more frequently as a reason for why teens wore protective equipment than for why they didn’t. And witnessing or experiencing an injury was the main thing study participants said could convince them to start wearing protective equipment.
The researchers also found that kids who said they wore helmets while biking were also more likely to use some types of personal protective equipment. Inline skaters who didn’t wear helmets were more likely to smoke, while skateboarders who scorned helmets were more likely to smoke and drink.
Discomfort was most common reason teens cited for not using protective equipment in all three sports, along with lack of perceived need.
Based on the findings, the researchers conclude, effective ways to get teens to wear personal protective equipment while engaged in extreme sports could include “reinforcement by parents and peers, encouraging bike helmet use, manufacturing more comfortable gear, educating adolescents, and instituting personal protective equipment requirements in public areas.”
SOURCE: Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, January 2008.
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