Is Skateboarding Bad for Your Back?
Skateboarding is an extremely popular outdoor activity, with many people spending their free time skateboarding around the neighborhood or getting some airtime at a skate park, but some people fear that the long-term repercussions of skateboarding could be detrimental.
Skateboarding poses a level of risk for lower back injury.
Since the back muscles used during skateboarding are not traditionally used and the back takes the brunt of the impact when jumping or twisting, skateboarders are more at risk of muscle strain, stress fractures, and other medical conditions.
However, there’s more nuance to the story than a simple yes or no can explain. The rest of this article will explore the risks and benefits of skateboarding for your back.
Skateboarding Can Cause Muscle Strains
Bruises, strains, fractures― injuries seem to come with the territory when skateboarding, but people don’t often consider the risk of back injury being a potential cause for concern.
According to Healthfully, the lower back is the area that absorbs much of the impact when falling or landing on a skateboard.
The first and most prevalent form of back injury during skating is muscle strain. Strains happen when a muscle is overtaxed and usually occur when overstretching the affected muscle.
Severe muscle strains can include tearing in muscle tissue, resulting in pain, tenderness and swelling.
Of course, muscle strains can occur with any kind of physical activity, but skateboarding is a pretty common cause of muscle strains, especially in people with underdeveloped back muscles or poor posture.
The V-shaped position of the body during a standard forward movement can strain the lower back, and sudden movements like balance corrections or quick turns are often the culprit in causing muscle strains in the lower back.
Like with any muscle, however, the more you use it, the less likely you will be to injure it. As such, long-time skaters usually don’t have issues with muscle strains because their lower back is developed and flexible enough to avoid overstretching and thus pulling a muscle.
Skateboarding Accidents Can Cause Spinal Injuries
Any sport comes with a degree of risk, but with ice skating, rollerblading, and skateboarding, falling can cause injury to the spine. Landing flat on your back sends a wave of impact through your spine, and spinal injuries can develop as a result of falling.
Damaged vertebra and discs can be very painful, and both can be harmed by skateboarding accidents.
Spondylolisthesis, more commonly referred to as a slipped vertebra, is a condition that can result in long-lasting lower back pain and can be onset by trauma to the spine as a result of falling backwards.
The most common spinal injury when skateboarding is a stress fracture, tiny cracks in the vertebrae that can cause discomfort and pain. Thankfully, stress fractures can generally be diagnosed and treated quickly and without long-term health implications.
Another spinal injury that can occur because of a failed skateboard movement is a herniated disc, which occurs when the inner portion of the spinal disc is displaced, causing pain whenever a nerve is compressed.
Lastly, another common cause of back pain that may occur when skateboarding is lumbar disc pain, which is the wearing out of the discs. Symptoms of an injured disc may include intermittent or persistent back pain, spasms, and sciatica pain.
If you already have occasional or constant back pain, skateboarding probably isn’t a good idea.
While skateboarding can strengthen your lower back muscles, for those with back issues, it’s better to strengthen the back in a more controlled environment with gentler exercises.
It’s also worth considering how you’re skateboarding. If you’re constantly falling trying to perform tricks or rolling down a ramp in the skate park, the risk of back injury will increase. In short, the more sudden or impact-heavy movements you do, the higher the risk of back injury.
How Skateboarding Can Benefit Your Back
While there are undoubtedly some back issues that may arise or be worsened by skateboarding, there are also plenty of benefits to consider when skateboarding.
Skateboarding targets specific muscles in your lower back that don’t see a lot of use otherwise.
When skateboarding, you can expect to improve your overall balance, core stability, and back muscles.
Your flexibility will improve as you learn to master skateboarding, and frequent skaters are also more aware of their balance and react to falls more quickly than the average person.
Safeguard to Avoid Injuries When Skateboarding
Because there are over 70,000 skateboarding injuries every year, you’ll want to take every precaution to avoid injury.
Falling is part of skateboarding. There’s no way around it. But there are plenty of safeguard you can take to protect your back (and the rest of your body for that matter).
First, always wear protective gear such as a helmet, knee pads, and elbow pads. The most dangerous injuries in skateboarding involve head trauma, and protective gear helps absorb the shock of impact to remove danger.
In addition to taking extensive precautions with proper protective equipment, the first thing you should learn to do before hopping on a skateboard is learning how to fall properly. If you fall forward, tuck your head and put your arms out, aiming to roll on your shoulder.
For backward falls, keep your head protected and raise your legs, using your hands, shoulders, and back to control the force of the impact. Lastly, for side falls, fall on one arm and roll on your back.
In any situation, always aim to distribute the force so that one area of your body (your head especially) doesn’t take the brunt of the blow.
If you want to avoid the onset of back discomfort when skateboarding, you should engage in other forms of back and core exercise to strengthen your muscles and balance.
Not only does this reduce the risk of injury, but it will likely make balancing on a skateboard much easier.
Warming up before a workout can help prepare your back for exercising and is beneficial for reducing the risk of back injury. Stretching out your back after a vigorous skating session will also reduce potential soreness or muscle strain.
Skateboarding is a lot of fun. It requires a lot of skill, and you’ll develop a sense of community with other skateboarders as you learn the ropes; however, as every skateboarder should know, there is a lot of injury risk associated with the activity.
Muscle strains are common and uncomfortable, and the sudden twisting and turning can cause injuries in the lumbar region. Impacts from jumping or falling can cause stress fractures, herniated discs, and damaged vertebrae.
On the bright side, skateboarding is a great form of exercise and can actually strengthen your back and core stability over time.
With these risks in mind, you should take precautions such as exercising your back and stretching after your sessions to reduce the risk of injury. Stay safe while you’re on the streets and start slow.
Beginners are the most likely candidates to fall within their first week, so you should take it easy and be careful. Know how to take a fall because you will― over and over again. But above all, have fun and enjoy the sport.