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Pads - to wear or not to wear

kjg's picture

I only started skating a 2 years ago but have always been pretty safety conscious - I guess I am from the generation that has always worn bicycle helmets. Anyway I had an awesome skate instructor who really stressed the importance of pads and safety gear. I always wear knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards and think they have saved me a time or too. So why do so few people wear them? Both beginners and experienced skaters.  I really don't see any disadvantage. Should we all lead by example?


Pads & advocacy

For the most part, I consider pads to be a matter of personal choice, as long as the skater in question accepts the inevitability (not the possibility) that the unprotected body part will at some point be subjected to abrasion or worse. When skating, I am a religious helmet-wearer and helmet promoter. I am unwilling to leave my brain case exposed to blunt trauma. Even if I am supremely confident of my own ability on skates, I skate in a world full of cars, bikes and other skaters, all of which have put me on the ground, occasionally painfully. Most often, these gravitational incidents have not been my fault. Being right doesn't help me to defy gravity.


At the same time, I don't wear elbow or knee pads, because I find them uncomfortable and knee pads interfere with my skating stroke. I know that when I fall, I will suffer abrasions on arms and legs, and run a greater risk of significantly worse than I would if I were fully padded, but I take that risk knowing my options.


My helmet advocacy occasionally cheeses off people who adamantly insist on their right to skate bare-headed. Their freedom of choice and my freedom of speech meet, disagree, and for the most part haven't harmed friendships irretrievably. Into the mix, I know that I have convinced a couple of people to wear helmets, and I think that's great. I agree, there is no disadvantage expressing to impassioned safety advocacy, but we shouldn't go much beyond.



kjg's picture

I take your point and it is

I take your point and it is definitely a fine line between advocacy and preaching. I don't think I have ever told anyone that they should wear pads, however the arguments of discomfort etc. were the same as those made against bicycle helmets. Perhaps we could come up with some innovation to make pads more comfortable (more aeration, wicking etc.) and less bulky. My concern is not so much for those who have made a conscious decision based on the risks as it is for those who see others not wearing pads and think it is not cool. I once went to a roller rink to practice some freestyle moves during a public session and was the only person in the place wearing a helmet and pads. One kid came up to me and asked why I was wearing a helmet, and I said to protect my head, he said that he never fell down. That is where I worry about the "not being cool" factor of both pads and helmets. Maybe if we could improve the design of pads and get the pros to wear them that would help with convincing the kids, or maybe I am just to wussy with road rash - i guess I am scarred from not being able to sit down for two weeks after sliding down a hill in Vancouver!!
roadskater's picture

the old helmet and pads debate

Thanks for bringing this one up. We cover this on InlineNC yahoogroup now and then, and it can get unpleasant no matter how we try to be respectful.

There's a whole line of argument and counterargument about freedom, insurance costs, government costs, blah blah. For me, I wear a helmet and avoid skating with someone in any position where I'm at all responsible (for example on a skate I lead or when I'm out with one or two or a small group) even if they say don't worry you don't have to take me to a hospital or take care of me if i fall. right!

I don't want to be there when someone cracks their skull. It's selfish and that's OK. I don't want to take care of them with a worse injury than they would have without it. I'll gladly take care of them if they've taken basic precautions for their skull.

They have a right not to wear a helmet and can exercise that right by skating with others who don't mind.

I've popped my chin and sheared a tooth off and I know there's no way I can stop my head from whip-cracking when my chest or back hits. I fell in DC recently at one of those spots where the street is split such that you have to cross one lane, stand, cross another lane, stand, maybe repeating that. When I fell backward I hit my head on the stoplight pole. It would have been nasty, bloody and inconvenient at least.

I'm sad when I see any adult letting children go without helmets, as I did today, but even sadder to see the adults not wearing them. In this way they teach the kids, in my view, that grown ups don't wear helmets, that it's more mature not to, that only kids have to. And I personally think it's more dangerous for an adult to fall than for a child to, but I have nothing to back that up.

As for wristguards, I wear palm sliders which don't protect my wrists, but I don't think with my wrists much. I do type with them and it would be a major bummer to break a wrist.

I used to wear knee and elbow pads but they're not very comfortable and I found them not to be very effective, sliding on impact, likely helping, but not preventing injury completely.

So for me it's ALWAYS helmet, ALWAYS sliders, ALMOST ALWAYS plastic rearview mirror on my left hand, ALMOST ALWAYS clear, peach or grey glasses to block wind and grit and some uv, polarized glasses to see through car front windows better when possible.


eebee's picture

Good question, and great

Good question, and great topic. I too started out wearing the whole get-up, when I started off with Team in Training.The few stints I did as an 'instructor' I made sure to stick to leading by example, and wore the elbows & knee pads (as well as the must-have helmet & wrist guards).

At some point I started skating with people who didn't wear knee pads, and compared with them, I was proud of my un-scarred knees. I can't say the same any more though! At some point I decided only to wear the helmet and wrist guards. My knees and my elbows are all beaten-up looking now, with scars that are here to stay. I think you should keep wearing all that garb to preserve those joints.

The main disadvantage I felt with knees pads was that my knees always knock together anyway, and wearing the pads made it worse. What menial crossovers I do are even clumsier with knee pads on! Plus the velcro at times would get caught from one kneepad and stick to the other, or chafe my other leg. The elbow pads I left off out of vanity. I hated elbow-pad tan lines. Still, I found out that that's better than not having skin (see photo!)...


Keep wearin' 'em, Katherine!

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