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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, March 28, 2001

The risks, rewards of skateboarding The risks, rewards of skateboarding (March 28, 2001)

Sport does carry risk of injury

The daredevil lifestyle of a skateboarder dies have its consequences. Dr. Warren King of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation predicts a whole new generation of arthritis sufferers at a much earlier age. "Any repetitive injury you get when you're young will affect you as you age," King said. Wrist and ankle injuries are the most common, with elbows and hips a close second. "You just can't fall that many times without some permanent damage," King said.

However, King firmly believes the risk of injury is worth the reward, at least in most cases. "Skateboarding is great for kids. It results in increased fitness and it gets kids away from watching TV."

"It's great exercise. These kids are coordinated," King added. And he should know. Both of his sons are skateboarders and King himself owns a board - it was a Father's Day gift from his sons.

"I tried to do ollies when I first got the board, but it's much more difficult than it looks," King said.

"Skateboarding is a good thing," King added. "They've got their own sport, their own language and their own clothes."

King does stress the importance of wearing helmets.

"The helmet must be comfortable and must fit low on the back of the head. And the chin strap must be buckled," he said.

King said the helmets are not always considered "cool" and they can cause kids to sweat, but he maintained the gear is necessary to avoid serious injury.

Knee, elbow and wrist pads are another issue. "If you're trick skating, you need mobility and the pads interfere," King said. But pads are still advised when skateboarding.

Almost all kids own pads, but mostly they sit in a box in the garage, unused. This is the case of 11-year-old Sean Quirk. Just about every day, Sean and his friend, Nick Boyd, 12, skateboard in the driveway and street in their quiet Palo Alto neighborhood. The pads aren't used, but the helmets are. Both kids have bruises up and down their legs and are testimony to the intensity of their sport.

Sean's mom, Jody Trivers, says she's proud of her son. "I've never seen Sean so dedicated to something. He wasn't good on a skateboard at first, but he worked at it and now he's great. It's terrific exercise and its given him a lot more self-confidence."

Sean has his own ramp he pulls into the street when he comes home from school. The sound of the wheels on the pavement is his calling card, Trivers said. "You don't phone, you don't ring doorbells, the sound of the skateboard is all you need to bring the neighborhood kids out to play," she said.

"I wanted something to do. I wanted to have a special hobby and I tried skateboarding," Sean said. "Now I skateboard all the time. When it rains and I can't skateboard, I go inside and watch videos of professional skateboarders like Tony Hawk."

Despite the incessant skateboarding, Sean and his friend still have time for homework. "They're both honor students" at JLS Middle School, Jody Trivers said. <@$p>

- Daryl Savage


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