When you think of fatal accidents in sport, you probably picture boxing, watersports, and racing. Skateboarding is likely not the first thing that springs to mind, but it’s an extreme sport that involves big jumps and drops, as well as lots of broken bones.
So, how dangerous is skateboarding, and has anyone ever died on a skateboard?
Can Skateboarding Kill You?
Fans of skateboarding video games like Tony Hawks and Skate will know that the biggest risk to a skater is not the vert jump or the rails, but traffic.
As soon as you venture out into the road and try to kickflip over a moving car, you’re one mistimed jump away from a “game over” screen.
In reality, most skaters stick to skate parks where cars are nowhere to be found. They also know to watch out for cars and stick to sidewalks where possible.
Still, road traffic deaths pose a major threat to skaters and the risk is even greater for inexperienced skateboarders and kids.
They jump on their skateboards, hit the sidewalk, and then cross the road without thinking. Everything happens too quickly for the driver to react and as skaters are young and vulnerable, the impact can be fatal even at relatively slow speeds.
There isn’t a great of data out there concerning these deaths, but the data we do have is quite alarming.
Over a decade ago, Skaters for Public Skateparks’s Research conducted research on skateboarding deaths and found a total of 42 incidents, with an average age of just 15. Of these, they learned that 71% were the direct result of an accident.
But that doesn’t mean you’re safe just because you only skate at skate parks or know to look both ways before you cross the road.
Head injuries can also kill, and these can occur at skateparks, on the street, and on vert ramps.
Serious head injuries occur when the skater stumbles, falls, and bangs their head on concrete, metal railings, or stone stairs. If they’re not wearing a safety helmet and fall far enough, hard enough, or in the right way, they could cause lasting and even fatal damage.
As with motor vehicle accidents, these deaths are more common in children. Not only are they inexperienced and still growing, rendering them more vulnerable, but they don’t always know how to brace themselves.
Blunt trauma doesn’t just kill. Even if the skater survives the hit, they could suffer from a slew of problems, including serious concussions and traumatic brain injury.
If you or your child has suffered such a fall, you should seek medical help immediately. A brain injury is not something you can just shake off and it’s definitely not something you should try to sleep off.
How Many Skaters Have Died?
There are around 40 fatal skateboarding accidents every year in the United States. That’s a frighteningly large number on the surface, but it’s worth noting that the majority involve motor vehicles and are not necessarily directly attributable to the sport.
Most fatalities are inexperienced skaters and the majority are just children.
How Often Do Pro Skaters Die?
There have been numerous instances in which experienced skaters have died while riding.
Just 6 months before writing this article, for instance, a Brazilian extreme sports fan died while skating in Australia’s Gold Coast. Raphael Vieira fell from his skateboard, hit his head, and died shortly thereafter.
He wasn’t a pro, but he definitely knew what he was doing and was a talented surfer, as well as a skater.
Incidents like this are not uncommon, but we couldn’t find any reports of a professional skateboarder dying while skating. There is no shortage of broken wrists, knee problems, concussions, and other common injuries, but it seems that deaths are very rare among pro skaters.
What Skateboarders Have Died?
In recent years, we’ve witnessed the tragic passing of several top skateboarders. None of these have died while skateboarding, but all of their deaths have been unexpected.
In 2022, Josh Neuman died in a plane crash while in Iceland. In 2021, we lost Zane Timpson, and we’ve also seen the passing of Ben Raemers and Jeff Grosso.
How to Stay Safe and Prevent Serious Head Injuries
Skateboarding, like all sports, can be dangerous. But it’s only as dangerous as you make it. To stay safe on your skateboard, keep the following tips in mind:
Wear Protective Gear
Helmets, wrist guards, elbow pads, knee pads—the more protective gear that you wear, the less exposed you’ll be.
But don’t assume that the gear will make you invulnerable to harm and if you’re a parent buying for your kid, don’t think that the gear will somehow wrap them in a protective bubble. You can still get hit by a car and if you fall hard enough, that helmet can crack.
Protective gear is important, but awareness and risk reduction are just as important.
Learn How to Fall
If you watch pro skaters on vert ramps, you’ll notice that they always fall on their knees and slide down the ramps. They wear pads on their knees to prevent injury and avoid falling on their wrists or head. It’s something that all skaters learn and something that could save you from serious harm.
Take it Easy
You wouldn’t go swimming or surfing if you didn’t know how to swim; you wouldn’t race a car if you didn’t know how to drive.
With skateboarding, you should stick with your level and progress slowly.
Leave the large ramps and hill bombs until you actually know how to control your skateboard.
Check Your Skateboard
If you’re using an old, worn, or broken skateboard, it could place you at risk.
It’s more prone to slipping or breaking, and if that happens suddenly and without warning, you could find yourself in serious trouble.
Stick to Skateparks
Be careful when street skating or skating on playground equipment. It wasn’t designed for skaters and there’s no one to legislate for the risks. If you’re an inexperienced skater, stick with skateparks and other designated areas.
Is Skateboarding a Dying Sport?
We’ve looked at how common skateboarder deaths are. We’ve talked about the tragic deaths associated with this sport. Now let’s finish by asking if the sport itself has suffered one too many fatal blows.
It’s one of the most common questions asked about this sport: Is skateboarding dying?
Unfortunately, it seems that skateboarding is on the decline. It’s not dead, far from it, but it’s certainly not as popular as it once was.
In the early 2000s, skateboarding was one of the most popular sports among youngsters. Everyone wanted to emulate legends like Tony Hawk and the sport experienced a massive revival. These days, however, younger generations are turning their backs on it.
Searches for terms like “skatepark” are at the lowest they have been for a long time, and that’s true even when you take the pandemic out of the equation.
We haven’t had any breakthrough video games to capture the imaginations of youngsters and while the Tokyo Olympics did help, it seems to have been short-lived.
However, the great thing about skateboarding is that it will always be there. Eventually, something will capture the imaginations of the younger generations and boost its popularity.
Until then, there are still millions of people of all ages who love the sport and keep skateparks active throughout the country.