Is ice skating too dangerous for my niece and me?
December 10, 2014 9:51 PM   Subscribe

I don't want to return my four-year-old niece to her mother with a blade injury or broken nose. As for myself, I'm about to purchase ice skates but I'm worried about taking up a dangerous habit at age 37. Assuming we never attempt spinning jumps, is ice skating dangerous enough to be avoided? ACL tears and so forth?
posted by Noumenon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If neither of you have ever been ice skating before you will spend the majority of your first outing falling down in increasingly comical ways. If you want to be super careful you can get her some knee pads or something. And good lord, I can't imagine what you would be doing on this outing that would lead to an ACL tear.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:00 PM on December 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

Best answer: for folks who don't really know how to ice skate, you won't go far or fast, you end up just scuffing and sliding your way along. Make sure you both are well padded. Broken nose much less likely than wrist (we naturally put out our hands when falling, even though bottoms are much harder to break than wrists are - doctors even have a name for these injuries, "FOOSH" - fall on an outstretched hand.) - so if you're particularly nervous, use wrist guards. It's certainly more dangerous than sitting on the couch, but by no means would I call it "dangerous". I see more emergency department injuries from sledding by far - and personally won't be sending my kids sledding without nerdy looking helmets.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:03 PM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: I was coming back here to clarify that we've been three times (plus three by myself) and it didn't seem that risky, but from working in an industrial environment I know that something that seems safe one time can be sure to get you if you do it 100 times. I was thinking of starting to go every week.
posted by Noumenon at 10:04 PM on December 10, 2014

To specifically address your concerns, the blades are not usually going to be near the rest of your body, so the most common ways people get blade injuries are from other people, for example they fall down on the ice and someone's skate hits them. For beginners I'd definitely avoid a crowded rink or rink where others are going quickly. When skates are not in use, you can use blade protectors.

ACL injuries are extremely rare in 4 year olds to begin with, they mainly occur in people who are doing things that are pretty athletic/fast-moving (skiing or snowboarding, definitely a risk). Knee ligament injuries typically occur with a sudden twisting of the knee, which is unlikely to happen while skating unless you're going fast or you fall in an unusual way.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:10 PM on December 10, 2014

Ask yourself if falling on your ass -- HARD, and onto a very hard surface -- sounds like a minor thing or something you really would rather avoid. Because it probably will happen. And what's funny when you're in your 20s can injure you for real when you're fortyish. Not telling you what your calculus ought to be, just that that's a likely scenario.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:28 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, little ones might not fall "safely" and hit their head instead of their bum - so there's that.

Actually, my biggest worry would be skating alongside teenagers and others skating fast and recklessly if my almost four year old son was with me!

I'm assuming you skate during periods blocked off for the inexperienced and super young, right? Does your rink offer that?

If you signed up yourself and your niece for some sort of Preschooler and Me skating lessons, I would adore you!!

Skate boarders wear helmets. As do bicyclers! Maybe a super cute helmet for your niece?

Back in the day, my nickname was "Safety-Pup" among my peers. I might be going too far.

If you have sensitive knees or ankles, that might be a worry.

My ex husband was a hockey skater since his youth, this made him expert on rollerblades, too. I kinda hate ice skating AND later on, rollerblading. Both scare me, even though I only fell a bunch without any serious injury. I might not be a great person to ask about these sports. I also hate the cold. While I'm very glad at 40 years + that I have great memories ice skating with my family back on the East Coast, I'm fine today living in LA and mostly avoiding the practice.

I did have several pairs of ice skates as a youth. Owning skates is definitely a rite of passage on some level.

If your young niece is a natural skater like my ex husband, it is probably best not to translate any fears onto her. You'll discover her aptitude for skating if you take a proper class together. I also have a friend who was a world champion skier. Some people are gifted in these areas, they are beyond concerns you or I might have in these areas due to natural talent.

I think it is AWESOME you're doing this! Thank you!!
posted by jbenben at 10:54 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

When you do fall, you should try really hard to not fall squarely on your tailbone. Try to twist (a little!) so you hit the ice with one of your cheeks instead. Bruised tailbones are no fun.

(PS, I grew up in WI and ice skated probably as young as four or five. It was great! You should totally do it. I think they make double bladed skates for beginners that are easier to balance on.)
posted by Weeping_angel at 10:55 PM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Do you have any pre-existing issues that would incline you to repetitive strain injuries? Even if you haven't, it's a good idea to start small and build up your time.

Also, not a bad idea to do some kind of basic full-body resistance program. This meta-analysis of injury prevention programs found that "both acute injuries (RR 0.647 (0.502–0.836)) and overuse injuries (RR 0.527 (0.373–0.746)) could be reduced by physical activity programmes ... Strength training reduced sports injuries to less than 1/3 and overuse injuries could be almost halved [by strength training, vs. stretching]".
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:14 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was told to wear tough gloves. The danger is from other people skating over your fingers!
posted by Omnomnom at 12:37 AM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Lots of kids in Canada learn to skate by using a chair or traffic cone or whatever to help with balance til they get comfortable. See if your rink allows something similar.
posted by peppermind at 2:26 AM on December 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

I'm fat and klutzy and broke my tail bone by slipping on ice while standing still. Twelve months later it still causes me pain, and spent the first few months unable to sit for more than a few minutes. Accidents happen. Having said that wear all the pads, have fun and take comfort in the fact for year old heal faster than adults.
posted by wwax at 2:59 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's not dangerous at all. Helmets are almost always REQUIRED for the little one. As for your noggin, IMHO required as well.

As for anything more serious than a bruised ass or pride, I wouldn't worry about it. Ice skating is safe and fun. I highly recommend your weekly plan. I miss it whenever I skip some time.
posted by chasles at 3:17 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

One thing I'd recommend is taking a couple of lessons. The first thing you learn in lessons is how to fall and how to get up safely.

For example, when you fall, you ball your hands up (to avoid getting skated over.)

Other than that, I love skating, it's great exercise, it's fun and just as with anything, there are risks, but no more so than weightlifting or running.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:56 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wore a helmet when I was a little one learning to skate, so you might consider that for your niece.
posted by quaking fajita at 5:07 AM on December 11, 2014

If you aren't skating at a rink, another concern is falling through the ice. I freaked out my own aunt when I was four with this move when I went to check out something interesting at the far edge of a public outdoor skating pond, where it turned out the ice was thin.
posted by alphanerd at 5:13 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

So I have been skating my whole life(since I was 3-4ish) and have never sustained any injury. One time a Skate Staffer accidentally skated over my hand after checking on my after a fall and I didn't realize it had happened till I was already back up and on my way. Those blades are not that sharp, I had some really minor scratches.

I really can't conceive of any real danger here assuming she has a helmet/relevant padding.
posted by KernalM at 5:30 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to add, if this is a new experience, would stick to a rink. Pond skating is a lot of fun but comes with a lot more risks. If you were going to do that (which I really suggest you don't) I'd go with someone who knows what they're doing.
posted by KernalM at 5:40 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm going to Nth the helmet recommendations. Slipping and slamming your head against the ice can happen in an instant. It hurts, and it's bad for you. Doubly bad for your niece.
posted by clawsoon at 5:50 AM on December 11, 2014

Also Nthing helmets for you both. I was an experienced and confident skater but years ago I was skating with my 8 year old; she grabbed onto me to stop from falling and I lost my balance and sustained a serious concussion to the back of my head. We weren't going fast, but falling back suddenly, with your feet slipping out from under you (and a kid hanging onto you) can result in a head injury.
A lot of older kids refuse to wear helmets while ice skating in places where it's not typical to wear one on the rink. You're lucky that she's four and won't know to refuse one.

Also you can call the rink to find out when there are going to be less crowded skating times. Certainly in the evenings you'd have a lot of teenagers etc.
posted by third rail at 6:07 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

People are a lot more safety conscious now than when I was a kid. I skated on ponds and in ice rinks, not often enough to be very good but with reasonable frequency, from when I was a small kid until my early teens and never sustained an injury, despite not wearing any kind of safety gear. Of course, I might be a little more cautious on the ice now that I'm nearing 50 (and haven't been very physically active at all lately). I don't think you need to be terrified of getting seriously hurt, but if helmets and pads would make you feel safer, then by all means wear them!
posted by velvet_n_purrs at 6:12 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Started playing ice hockey at the age of 27. The only time I hurt myself skating was when I was given a pair of inline roller skates. I instinctively went to make a hockey stop and well I fell over and to use the term treehorn + bunny used -- FOOSH. Broken wrist. There is the time I got hit when I wasn't wearing a cup, but I do not think that is a risk either of you face.

Wear a bike helmet and enjoy.
posted by 724A at 6:39 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been taking my kids ice skating around once a week during the winter since they were little. I was in my 40's when we started and I'm over 50 now. We don't wear helmets and none of us has ever fallen in a way that involved a hit to the head. (But there's a sign up at the rink we go to about something horrible - I don't remember the details - that happened to a kid who was skating without a helmet.) None of us has ever gotten hurt, except my son when he was 2 or 3 and he fell and banged his lip on something. It bled a lot but turned out to be fairly minor injury that healed quickly. Skating doesn't feel very hard on my body. Sometimes I feel a little stress on my knees, but nothing serious. (And that's not from just skating big circles around the rink, but from practicing simple tricks. Right now I'm trying to learn to do a 3 turn.) I was in reasonably good shape when we started and already knew how to skate without falling down, which may or may not be the case for you, so YMMV.
posted by Redstart at 7:42 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe try the rental skates first, to see how you like it.
posted by tracer at 7:51 AM on December 11, 2014

Given that you already seem to understand the basics of ice skating, you will likely be fine. The greatest danger is most likely on your drive to the ice skating rink.
posted by deanc at 7:53 AM on December 11, 2014

I was coming back here to clarify that we've been three times (plus three by myself) and it didn't seem that risky, but from working in an industrial environment I know that something that seems safe one time can be sure to get you if you do it 100 times.

Keep in mind this is true for everyday life as well - you can easily get a concussion or a broken hip slipping on your icy stairs in the morning, but you probably don't wear a helmet every time you leave the house in the winter (or avoid leaving your house entirely!). There are risks with skating, definitely. There are risks with any physical activity, and risks with being less active as well. You can avoid some of skating's risks with things like helmets and even kneepads if you like, there's certainly no harm, although I've never used them and rarely see even children using them around here (where skating is very popular). Kids don't tend to skate fast enough or fall far enough to cause themselves any harm, although better safe than sorry I guess.

One thing I like to do is wear a pair of soft pants under my jeans, like sweatpants or fleece pants, which not only keeps you warm but cushions the blow a bit if you fall (I usually try to fall on my hip/buttcheek, or otherwise anywhere except tailbone). Other than that, go no faster than you feel stable with, and stay aware of your posture and balance - bending your knees will go a long way in keeping you stable. Don't lean back, especially with straight legs, or you risk tipping over. You could practice safe falling techniques if you like, which are applicable to skating as well as many other areas. Most importantly, have fun!
posted by randomnity at 7:56 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would recommend not just a helmet, but a helmet with a wire cage on the front. That way you also eliminate the possibility of smashing your face into the ice. Which seems like a good possibility to eliminate.
posted by joelhunt at 8:02 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

but from working in an industrial environment I know that something that seems safe one time can be sure to get you if you do it 100 times.

Did your niece enjoy her other skating experiences? If so, I would encourage you to take the safety advice offered here and keep skating with her. She's not only learning to skate, she's also learning how to assess risks, take risks, and as randomnity said, mitigate them. Those are hard lessons to learn when you're older.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:15 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would recommend not just a helmet, but a helmet with a wire cage on the front.

Hockey Helmets! You won't look like geeks, you'll look bad-ass! Get sticks while you're at it!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:54 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I went with my daughter once. Once. The issue for us was that in continually keeping her from falling, I was subjecting my back to all sorts of sudden pulling and twisting. She had a fine time, but I was laid up in bed for several days afterwards.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:47 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I took my granddaughter to an ice rink (she'd never skated before), they gave her a bright orange tall traffic cone to keep in front of her, hands on. She only slipped down twice during the entire time and quickly learned to do without the cone. She was 4 yrs old at the time.
I'd bring one with me if the rink didn't have any. You can get them a big box hardware stores like Lowes or Home Depot.
posted by donaken at 12:28 PM on December 11, 2014

I definitely think you can improve the safety of skating with a few lessons. You will learn to fall safely in a way that will minimize injuries (people break their tailbones falling on their butts ALL THE TIME. Super common beginner injury that is super painful, plus it can't be treated so you just have to wait it out which means six weeks of finding sitting unbearable. YUCK.). You will also find skating more enjoyable when you are steadier on your feet and able to turn and stop safely/reliably. To me it sounds like a cool and fun thing to do with your niece. Have fun!
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:35 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm in my 40s and started skating lessons with my daughter a couple of years ago. She's learning jumps and spins and having a great time; I'm still working on 3-turns, but I'm having fun as well.

Are you skating at a rink? See if they offer learn-to-skate classes (for younger kids, they may have one that you can take together), or if you just want the very basics, see if you can get a private lesson (at my rink in Los Angeles, most of the pros charge around $30 for a 20-minute private lesson).

Try to keep your knees slightly bent while you're on the ice. If you feel like you're losing your balance. put your hands on your knees; this either stabilizes you or puts you in a better position to fall. If you have fallen, get on your hands and knees and get up one leg at a time.

I would make sure your niece has gloves and warm, preferably waterproof pants (my daughter wore ski pants for her first 6 months of lessons). Kids don't mind falling and it generally doesn't hurt them (they're closer to the ground and not as tensed up as adults are). What they don't like is when their clothes or hands get cold/wet when they fall. I see a few kids wearing helmets at the rink, but most do not. Some of the adults wear the Crasche headbands, but most don't.
posted by mogget at 12:37 PM on December 11, 2014

Don't lock your knees and don't wear jeans (or or other cotton pants). Jeans are awful in the cold when they get wet. Do have hot chocolate for after.
posted by bonehead at 2:36 PM on December 11, 2014

Little kids should probably wear helmets.
You can both practice by lightly pushing an appropriately-sized chair ahead of you (don't lean forward on it though, that doesn't teach you anything).
And wear proper one-blade skates, don't get bob-skates for the kid, those literally make it impossible to perform the diagonal strides needed to actually skate.
Taking a few lessons, and practicing on mostly-empty rinks, is the best way to learn.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:51 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

At my local rink they have these which little ones can push along really easily. They also have a little platform they can stand on while you push. The best thing is as an adult you can use them as well (unless you are really tall) and it makes things easier for you too!
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 3:48 AM on December 12, 2014

Ice skating can be extremely simple! Just remember to keep your knees bent a little and push side to side as opposed to doing the running-man.

As for the little girl, they make a walker-type apparatus that can be used to give her added stability. All she would have to do is hold onto the bar and walk/push her feet.

Like anything, just take your time and you will be less likely to injure yourself. The hardest thing can be watching out for some of the other crazy kids that come sliding in out of no where. LOL.
posted by SCarey at 6:47 AM on December 23, 2014

Response by poster: MetaFilter asked me to follow up on this thread. I see some good advice that I just didn't take. For example, I skated to the edge of an outdoor rink last week and heard cracking and water bubbling up from the ice under my weight -- no idea how close a call that was. I also gave my niece a tiny cut on the finger by skating with her when I didn't have her thick gloves -- if I had not seen the finger and pulled away I'm sure I could have cut that little finger off. Those thick gloves are on my checklist now, and I won't let anyone take them off.

I intended to buy the wrist guards but just didn't locate a pair (I figured the thick gloves would help), and I took my chances with no helmet. Based on my other experiences I probably better armor up or I will be landing on my wrist and head within the next month. My nephew wants to try hockey so the helmets would be of use.
posted by Noumenon at 5:18 PM on January 20, 2015

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