Summer’s almost here! It’s time for kids to relax their brains after a hard year of academic training. But as we head out into the sun to get active, it’s also a time to be vigilant about summer sport safety.
As a summer camp coach and professional athlete, I encourage all parents to take the time to learn about common sport illnesses and injuries. As responsible educators, we need to recognize and prevent the more common active play injuries in children of all ages.
Common sports injuries
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Children are more susceptible than adults to fall victim to over-exertion and heat-related illnesses in the summer months. Once someone falls victim to heat exhaustion or heat stroke they’re also more susceptible to the condition in the future.
According to SWATA, “The number of heat-related injuries from 1997 to 2006 increased 133%. Youth accounted for the largest proportion of heat-related injuries or 47.6%.” SWATA also noted that two-thirds of children start practice or other outdoor activities while already significantly dehydrated.
To combat this, it’s important to recognize the signs. We must also take steps to prevent heat-related dehydration and illness before it occurs.
Sport Safety International offers a free 20 min. online course about heat safety. I highly recommend parents take this summer sport safety course as a refresher every year.
Other key things to keep in mind:
- Dress children in loose natural fiber clothing whenever possible.
- Encourage children to take regular breaks in the shade to cool down.
- Help kids hydrate often by drinking more than usual when active. Make sure children don’t wait until they feel thirsty to drink.
- Offer and encourage kids to eat ample fruits and veggies. This gives natural energy, replenishes moisture, and balances those vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.
- Limit time spent in outdoor activity. Avoid the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest.
- For older children, teach them to recognize the signs of heat-related illness. They’ll be able to both self-regulate their own activity, and help their friends stay safe.
- Encourage children to stay active in groups. They’ll be able to keep an eye on each other to help monitor their friends’ conditions for signs of heat-related illness.
Head injuries and concussions
According to the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), annually more than 170,000 children and young adults are treated in emergency departments (EDs) for sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) – including concussion.
To help educate about and protect against these injuries, the CDC now offers a free Heads Up concussion training course. It’s designed for parents, teachers, coaches, and other health professionals.
The course outlines some of the dangers of concussions, signs, symptoms, and safety precautions. As a coach and parent myself, I highly recommend it!
Protective gear for summer sport safety
You can’t just buy protective gear and then keep it in the garage or closet. For it to effectively protect your kids they need to actually wear it.
Make sure that your child understands how each piece works to protect them. Ensure they know how to properly wear the gear before engaging in their sport of choice.
While it may take children time to establish the new positive habit, there are easy ways to push kids with positive reinforcement. One super simple strategy is to make a deal to buy a new piece of coveted sport equipment when they use their protective gear for x number of days in a row!
Routine safety checks of helmets, pads, and other safety gear can mean the difference between your equipment protecting your child from injury, or possibly making the injury worse.
Here’s what you need to know:
Helmets are a must-have essential for any fast or high-impact sport. This is why when my team and I teach at our skateboarding camps and private lessons I insist on proper headgear, pads, and boards in good repair.
Helmets are the best protective gear for the head. They come in a variety of sizes and styles for each type of sport. You’re sure to find just the right fit and style for your child’s needs.
If you’re looking for skateboarding gear, be sure to check out our available gear for all ages.
I find that it’s especially important to treat helmets with respect. If your child routinely throws their helmet around, or lets them fall to the ground on hard surfaces when not in use, these impacts can cause structural weaknesses.
Hairline cracks, chips, and loose padding may prevent the helmet from fully protecting your child in an accident. Be aware and replace helmets as often as needed.
Believe it or not, mouth guards both protect against tooth and facial damage, but brain damage as well!
Mouth guards are not needed for all sports. However, in a high-contact sport environment, properly fitted mouth guards can cushion and disperse the force of a facial impact. This lessens the chances of a traumatic brain injury or concussion.
There are many types of mouth-guards including bite guards and custom fabrications. Your dentist can direct you to the most suitable one for your child, your budget, and the needs of their sport.
Regular equipment checks
As mentioned above, it’s important to check your summer sport safety equipment regularly for signs of wear and tear. Faulty equipment may compromise the gear’s ability to protect your child in an accident. Maintenance can also ensure that your child is able to use simple machines equipment – like boards and bikes – with ease.
I recommend performing a full equipment and gear inspection at the beginning of the summer, and on a monthly basis thereafter.
Tighten screws, clean bearings, and check chains of equipment like skateboards and bicycles on a regular basis. Make sure bearings are lubed and dirt is cleaned out so that equipment functions at peak performance! For skateboard-specific adjustments and maintenance, check out my beginner’s guide to a complete skateboard checkup. I’ve included step-by-step instructions.
For more in-depth training and instruction in how to master skate skills and stay safe while skateboarding, consider also joining one of the Jordan Richter Skateboard Academy’s Summer Skateboarding Camps or book a series of our year-round private lessons.
Some may think that illness and injury is just part and parcel of staying active. However, with some forethought and education about sport-related issues, you can significantly reduce the risk of serious injury and illness.
Keep your kids safe while they play this summer and, most importantly, have fun!
Keep pushing forward!
One of the great things about the sport of skateboarding is that it requires little daily skateboard maintenance. In fact, decks are even designed to be both durable and disposable.
You may go through a series of decks but keep your same trucks for years. The useful life of wheels falls somewhere in the middle – between decks and trucks. How long a wheel lasts depends where and how you skate with them.
The low maintenance nature of skateboarding doesn’t mean that you can completely neglect keeping your board in shape. Skateboards are made up a few different components that can lose their functionality over time, if neglected. Give them tender loving care to keep them working at optimal levels.
Sometimes a cleaning or adjustment just makes sense. It’s also much safer to take the time to do minor adjustments before you head out to skate. For anyone that’s had a wheel pop off while skating, you’ll know that it’s not the wheel that feels the pain!
Maybe you just got a new board and don’t know where to start making adjustments. Or perhaps you’ve had a board for a while and noticed that it’s just not working for you the way it used to.
I’m here to walk you through the basics of skateboard maintenance. I’ll teach you how to get the most out of your board at all skill levels.
This guide will help you troubleshoot many of the basic issues. However, to get the most out of your board, you may want to consider signing up for Jordan Richter Skateboard Academy’s camps and group classes. You can also sign up for private lessons where we can troubleshoot some specific issues you may be having.
Skateboard maintenance tools before you start:
- Collect together various sizes of crescent or socket wrenches. (9/16,”1/2” & 3/8” are some of the common nut sizes you’ll see on your board.)
- Phillips head screwdriver or Allen key
- You can also use an all-in-one skate tool that combines all of these tools together.
1) Trucks Adjustment
The metal axle assembly on the bottom of your board is known as the trucks. The level of tightness of the trucks controls how simple or hard it will be to turn your board.
Tighter trucks are recommended for beginners. This reduces the number of variables that a skater has to deal with while they’re learning. However, as you grow and develop your balance and skills, loosening the trucks will make it easier for you to navigate your board.
To adjust the truck, first flip the board upside down. You’ll see a large nut at the end of the “kingpin” bolt in the center of the truck. You’ll only need to take a wrench to the one 9/16” nut on each truck.
If your nuts are tight, try loosening each truck nut a quarter turn at a time. Try the board out after each adjustment to feel how it rides differently.
You’ll find that a full turn will give a very noticeable change.
Pay attention and be sure to never over loosen the nut to the point that you risk having the nut fall off the kingpin.
You may also find that you develop a preference for a tighter truck on the front or back. However, I recommend keeping the trucks the same tightness level for consistency as you develop.
PRO TIP: If you find that your trucks are still too tight even after loosening your kingpin bolt to the last thread, you can remove the top metal washer that covers your bushings. This will give you some extra thread to play with and also will make your truck more responsive.
2) Bubbles in the grip tape
You may find that you have some bubbles under your board grip. This can happen if the sandpaper-like top of the board grip was not applied evenly.
No worries though! Slip a razor blade or pin under the edge of the grip to make a small opening. Then push the air out and “pop” the bubble between the grip and board. This is a relatively easy skateboard maintenance trick. It works wonders to get those annoying bubbles out from under your grip tape.
Just bear in mind that the more you skate a board, the stronger the grip will become. This issue is best fixed sooner rather than later.
3) Axle nuts adjustment
On each of your two axles your wheels are attached with one ½” nut per wheel. To ensure your wheels are properly attached, tighten each nut as far as it can go without stopping the spin and movement of the wheel.
Also, as you move the wheel from side to side you should only be able to feel a slight amount of wiggle room. It is possible for nuts to work themselves loose from time to time, so wheels are an important issue to check as part of your regular skateboard maintenance.
4) Truck mounting bolts adjustment
Each of your trucks is attached to your skateboard deck with a set of four bolts and four ⅜” nuts. Some companies use Phillips head bolts, while other use Allen wrench bolts, so it’s good to keep both on hand for skateboard maintenance.
Many high-quality boards will have nylon locking nuts. These generally offer a very stable and long-lasting grip. However, exposure to extreme heat can loosen the nylon grip over time.
If the nuts do get loose, you can tighten them back up. However, keep in mind that nylon-locking nuts need to be replaced if you do ever decide to completely remove them.
5) Cleaning your bearings
Bearing cleaning can be a lengthy process, so it’s really not worth taking everything apart if the wheels are still spinning decent. That being said, if you have a wheel that is simply not spinning at all, you should probably consider a cleaning.
Your option when cleaning is to just do all the wheels at once, or just focus on the one wheel that is in most dire need. What you choose will probably depend on how much time you have, and the state of the rest of your wheels.
To clean, first you’ll want to remove the axle nut and the wheel. Set both of these pieces, and the washers you removed from either side of the wheel, somewhere safe. It’s best to work at a table so that your pieces won’t roll away from you.
Next, you’ll need to pry the bearings out of the wheels without damaging them. Some skaters just use the exposed axle to do this bit, but there are actually skateboard maintenance tools that can make this process much safer, faster, and easier.
Here is a detailed explanation on the dangers of dirty bearings, as well as expert directions in how to clean your bearings yourself.
However, if you are not up for the challenge of cleaning, you can easily just replace your bearings for the same results.
6) Cleaning and replacing your grip tape
As mentioned above, bubbles are one aspect of grip tape that may need to be addressed. However, there may come a time when the tape gets so dirty or worn that you consider replacing your grip tape altogether.
Some skate shops sell erasers that can help you remove stubborn marks on your grip tape. You can also address problem areas using a damp used toothbrush. Just be sure to blot the stain to soak up any moisture. Rubbing or scrubbing with a fabric or paper towel will make a big linty mess.
Take care not to get the board or any of the metal bolts wet as you’re cleaning.
You can also remove the old grip and replace it. It’s a bit of a tedious process, but doesn’t take too long. It will take you 15-30 minutes with the help of a razor blade or even a hairdryer.
While the hairdryer method of heating small portions at a time does make it a bit easier to pull off strips of grip, it also makes things messier. Keep that in mind going in.
Be sure to get off all the remaining old grip and glue you can so that you can apply the new grip cleanly and evenly.
7) Other general care instructions
In general, it’s best to avoid getting your skateboard wet or expose it to very hot or cold weather.
It’s best to not store your skateboard in a car trunk in the summer or outdoor shed in winter. If you do so, you run the risk of damaging or warping the deck. This will also end up reducing its life and making the board harder to ride.
While skateboards were meant to get dented and scratched over their lifetimes, it’s also good to keep in mind that the decks are actually designed to be somewhat disposable. While decks can take a certain amount of wear and abuse, you may still need to replace them.
If we missed something or if you have any skateboard maintenance tips to share, feel free to leave a comment below. You can also shoot us an email if you have a question about skateboards you don’t see answered here.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy your fixed up board!
Keep pushing forward!