Should you wear a helmet while skateboarding?
Are helmets really necessary for skateboarding? The majority of skaters don’t wear them and it’s a rare sight to see a pro with one. If anything, they are pretty hard to come across and some would say they aren’t needed. But, skaters who have had serious head injuries would argue otherwise.
In today’s article, I’ll be talking about whether you need a helmet for skateboarding or not. I’ll talk about when it’s appropriate to have one and when you can get away without.
Should you wear a helmet for skating?
I think the answer to this depends on the type of skating you’re doing and your level of skill and experience. With skill, you can mitigate risk in some situations by being able to stay in control and navigate them safely. With experience, you can recognize safety hazards and plan to avoid them.
However, some situations have factors that you can’t control or that don’t allow you to use your skill as a safety compensator. These situations call for extra protection and it would be wise to wear a helmet or get some safety gear. That said, some skaters are unbelievably stubborn and won’t wear a helmet even if their health is at risk.
What if you’re just cruising around?
If you’re an extremely experienced and skilled skateboarder, you’re probably safe if you’re just cruising around. A helmet isn’t necessary for you in that situation.
If you’re a beginner skater and don’t feel confident in your riding ability then a helmet is necessary. A pebble, crack, or a sharp turn in the road can throw you off your board and cause you to fall.
You also don’t have the experience of recognizing when you’re gonna fall or the skill to fall properly. So when you do fall, you will fall awkwardly, badly and will probably injure yourself.
If you do have some experience skating and are moderately confident in your ability, you don’t need a helmet for just cruising around. You might fall, but at this point, you probably recognize when you are going to and know how to bail properly.
What happens if you don’t wear a helmet and hit your head?
Let’s take the worst-case scenario where a rider falls square on their head. In these instances, it’s typically a 5-6ft vertical drop where the rider smacks the side of the head. Imagine it’s a fall where the board slips out from under them and they fall backward and on to their head. This is a pretty common way to fall and injure yourself.
In tests, helmets dropped on an anvil from about 6ft in height have an impact force of 1000G. We’ll assume the same impact force is what the rider will encounter when they fall and hit their head. This is what different impact forces can do to the brain:
- An impact force between 16.5 to 180G could give you a concussion. This is typically the range most concussions occur.
- Any force above 300G to the head is considered a fatal impact force. It may permanently damage the brain, cause a life-threatening injury, or in the worst situation, kill the skater.
So whilst accidents may not be likely in most scenarios, or even as most situations are low risk. When an accident does happen it can have a devastating effect. Wearing a certified helmet will protect you from this impact and keep you safe.
When should you wear a helmet?
- If you’re a beginner – Beginners are the most likely to fall over and get hurt. They don’t have much skill and skating feels very awkward and unnatural to them. They also don’t know how to fall either. A helmet should keep them safe in the (likely) situation they fall. Helmets are especially a good idea for kid skaters.
- When you’re trying something new – You’re most at risk at falling when you’re trying something new. This also applies if you’re an experienced skater.
- Whether it’s a new trick or skating in an unfamiliar area. Doing something new puts you in an unfamiliar territory where you can’t be certain about how your board will behave. This could put you in a position to fall where you could hurt yourself badly. It’s wise to wear a helmet (and other protection too).
- If you’re going big – the higher the risk, the higher the reward. However, the more you have to lose. If you’re jumping a stair set or doing a trick on a long rail, it’s wise to wear a helmet. If you do have an accident without one, it could be devastating.
- If you’re skating vert or pool – This type of skating often has skaters doing big airs, going fast and trying pretty scary tricks. You’ll see a lot of vert and pool skaters wearing helmets. There is a risk of getting seriously injured in this type of skating so it’s wise to pad up.
Why don’t pros wear helmets?
The argument as to why pros don’t wear helmets typically goes like this. Because they are pro skaters, they aren’t likely to fall and hurt themselves badly. They are skilled so they know what they are doing and can avoid serious injuries.
That said because they usually go big and do huge tricks in risky situations. When they do get injured, they get injured badly.
The industry discourages it
The industry also discourages pro’s from using helmets. Despite the risk to a skater’s well being. This is because helmets don’t look cool and don’t fit into the typical “skate or die” hardcore theme. Because of this, the industry doesn’t think they’d be able to sell products well if their skaters have helmets in photos.
So you could turn up to a session with a helmet ready to do a big trick but only to have a photographer or your team manager tell you not to wear it. All because it might make the photos look a little bit lame.
Andy Anderson is a skater famous for always wearing a helmet has encountered this discouragement. He’s had photos turned away by magazines, had other skaters try to hide his helmet away and even had his team manager sit him down to encourage him not to wear it.
So even if a pro wants to wear a helmet, the industry discourages them. And pro skaters end up paying the price for it.
Pro skaters do get injured pretty bad
Pro skaters also get seriously injured. When filming his ‘Til Death part, Nyjah Huston hit his head badly, to the point he was convulsing and had to be taken to hospital. He even lost his memory for a bit.
Nyjah is an extremely talented skater – maybe one of the best to ever do it. He knows exactly what he is doing and has the skill to recognize when he might fall pretty badly.
However, he does put himself in really risky situations. And whilst he is likely to not get hurt, the times he does get hurt, he gets hurt bad.
Another example of a pro getting injured badly is what happened to Leticia Bufoni at SLS back in 2016. Check it out in the video below.
She lost her memory for a while after that injury. She says she only remembers waking up in the hospital with her Mum by her side. She ended up spending a week in bed and about a month recovering.
I don’t understand why pros who do huge tricks don’t wear safety gear. They’re putting their body, careers and well being at risk. They could end up with huge medical bills and no way to pay them.
Understandably you can live and get away with a scraped elbow or knee. However, a traumatic brain injury can put you out of the game for good. If you’re doing a big risky trick, it makes sense to keep the most important part of your body safe.
How to pick a good helmet?
Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to pick a good helmet. You should aim to get one that is certified.
- Get a certified helmet – the ASTM F1492 is a skateboard specific certification. It ensures that a helmet will provide impact protection when you fall. Reducing impact forces to below 300G.
- Get the right-sized helmet – measure your head with tape to get an accurate size of your dome. A helmet that fits well will be comfortable and won’t slip off when you fall.
- Get one that looks cool to you – nothing will discourage you more from wearing a helmet if it looks ugly. A helmet that you think is cool will give you confidence and you’ll enjoy wearing it
What are some good helmets?
S1 Mini Lifer
It’s made from S1’s fusion foam and comes with thick padding for comfort. Finally, it comes in many different nice-looking options. It will be easy to pick a helmet you like from all the options they have. Check out the S1 Lifer here on Amazon.com.
Triple 8 Dual Certified Brainsaver
This just means it is a good helmet that will keep you very safe.
It has a rounded shape that will fit most heads very comfortably. Finally, it comes with extra pads so you can customize it for a tighter or looser fit. Find out more about the Triple 8 helmet here on Amazon.com.
Flybar Dual Certified helmet
However, it isn’t as comfortable and as ergonomic. But if you’re looking for something to just have on standby, it will get the job done well. Check it out here on Amazon.com.
What do you think? Will you be wearing a helmet from now on?
I have to say I agree with people who say helmets aren’t necessary for everything. That said, they are an important tool that you need to use. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t let any skater do tricks or learn without one.