Skaters to get heads-up on safety

Skateboarding-related injuries account for 50,000 emergency room visits each year in the United States
by: Jonathan House, 
NO GEAR, NO FEAR? — Noah Whitaker, 16, of Wilsonville, does a trick on his Razor scooter at Tualatin’s skate park Monday morning. Whitaker said he’d only 
consider wearing a helmet if he was trying to do a “dangerous” stunt. Event organizers hope to change that attitude.

TUALATIN - Spencer Livesay, 16, of Wilsonville, said he would probably do it if he were being paid. He would likely do it if he got ticketed. He might even do it if a trick he was about to attempt seemed dangerous.

But for everyday skateboarding, Livesay says he won't wear a helmet.

'Skateboarding is just something you can have fun with not (worrying about) a helmet,' he said catching a moment of rest in the shade at Tualatin's 9,800-square-foot skate park Monday. 'As long as you're not stupid, you shouldn't need one.'

None of the skaters at the park Monday morning wore a helmet or protective gear of any kind. And Tualatin resident Targol Saedi wonders if they know the risks.

Each year, injuries related to skateboarding are responsible for 50,000 emergency room visits and 1,500 hospitalizations in the United States, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention.

And every day, Saedi, a medical student at OHSU, sees patients come in with preventable injuries. And every day she passes the Tualatin Skate Park and sees the jumping, rail-grinding and smiling faces of the skateboarders without protective gear.

'I want to inspire them to wear helmets and safety gear every day,' Saedi said.

With funding help from two grants, Saedi has organized Skateboard Fest - a four-hour event dedicated to educating local teens and their parents about the need to wear protective gear, especially helmets, whenever they skateboard. The event will be held Friday, July 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Tualatin Skate Park.

'Hitting your head is different than breaking a bone,' said Moneeka Patel, state chapter director of Think First Oregon. 'Brain and spinal injuries are the only two injuries that can never be healed.'

Think First Oregon, which focuses on brain and spinal cord injury prevention, will be on hand during the event to offer helmets at low cost to skateboarders. Patel said that while the organization usually concentrates on bicycle riders for helmet awareness, she admitted that driving past the Tualatin Skate Park and seeing all the skaters without gear is scary.

'You never know when you're going to fall,' Patel said.

CJ Robertson, 19, of Portland, will be a guest speaker at the event, and his grapefruit-sized scar on the left side of his head will undoubtedly catch the attention of most skaters.

Robertson has been an avid skateboarder for about eight years and usually always wore a helmet. In March, he was simply skateboarding in between classes without a helmet when he fell. After surviving two surgeries and slipping into a coma, Robertson is recovering.

This will be his first public talk about his accident. And while Robertson knows the need for wearing a helmet, he said the message will still be difficult to ring true in the ears of other young skaters.

'Even if I tell them, they might not listen because that's exactly how I was,' he said. 'It's just hard to talk to somebody to convince them when they've heard it before.'