All athletes are prone to injury. Skateboarders are no different. The irony is, many times skaters do not think of themselves as athletes & the classic sense, yet are sometimes more at risk given the ‘extreme’ nature of what they do. Whether it is airing out of 10’ bowl or ollie-ing a staircase, the penalty for failure at the very least is impacting a very hard surface and coming to an abrupt halt, expressed by Newton’s law of Force = Mass x Acceleration, where the concrete always wins. Yet many skaters, (who tend to have youth & plenty of ego on their side), do not warm-up, stretch, wear protective equipment, or cross-train with other forms of exercise, in order to improve strength, joint-integrity & flexibility. No other elite athlete would train or compete with such personal neglect.
Most of us skate for fun and couldn't care less about competition or elite performance – this is true. However, no matter why you skate, getting injured SUCKS, especially if you can’t skateL
The intent here is not to sound preachy. Skateboarding has always been about non-conforming & expressing individuality, and is certainly not considered a mainstream or conventional sport (though this perspective seems to be rapidly changing in our society). In fact many of us came to love skateboarding because there are no coaches and no rules or because it was an outlet from ‘normal’ team sports. Indeed skating is as much an art form as it is a sport. This is not intended to be a political discussion, or about the obvious protective benefits of wearing helmets and pads – we wouldn’t waste your time!
This is about INCREASING longevity as skater: Taking care of your body & your joints so you can skate longer & pain-free. Injuries are inevitable if you skate long & hard enough, but you can take steps to prevent most of them, minimize their severity and recover more quickly. In fact, skating is an amazing full body, functional exercise, and a path to a fitter, healthier mind, body & soul.
What can you do? Much of it you know already, especially if you ever played other conventional sports. LISTEN to your body. Put in the time. Pay your dues, and your body will love you for it. Your joints, tendons & ligaments will be STRONG when you need them to:
1. Warm-up. Before you start shredding, do some light stretching (minimal discomfort), and go mellow your first few runs. If you have any chronic injuries or lingering issues, give them special attention with some massage, localized stretching and even wrap the area if possible. Again this is where you really must ‘listen’ to your body: What’s feeling tight or sore? Is there any lingering inflammation? Do you feel any knots that need to be worked out? Depending on your age & stage in the game, some will use foam-rollers, massage balls & other methods to ‘release’ knots & trigger-points, and loosen up fascia adhesions. Veteran athletes will all have old-injuries & scar tissue to deal with every time they skate from all the years they’ve been charging.
2. Wear Performance-Enhancing/Protective wraps & sleeves. This is different than pads. Wrapping a joint, muscle group, or inflamed area with compression-wear, a neoprene sleeve, ACE bandage, or whatever else you can come up with, will improve joint-integrity and muscle function. The additional support is actually comfortable, seems minimal but can make big difference. In fact the benefits of compression-wear go beyond protection but actually improve performance. You can invest in wraps & clothing at any Sport’s Authority store, or make your own. And you can wear them underneath your clothing so nobody has to know, if you so choose.
3. Weight/Resistance/Strength Train! Girls especially don’t like to hear this one. Some find exercise boring enough, let alone lifting weights when they are worried they might grow big muscles. YOU WON’T! Bar none, absolutely nothing improves joint integrity, bone-density, ligament & tendon strength, like weight-training. While weight-lifting is the most practical & convenient way to weight/strength train, it is by no means the only way. Running & biking hills, plyometric box-jumps, sprint-training, are all examples of ways to improve your strength & build muscle. You will not get BIG! You have to lift very heavy loads & eat a lot of extra calories to gain mass. You don’t have to join an expensive gym. Home-training can be as simple as buying one 25 lb Kettlebell & a Resistance-band! In the video below, Skater & Athlete Bryce Wettstein, demonstrates a series of full-body strength & cardio training exercises, for all board-sports athletes:
4. Cross-Train with other exercises and/or sports. Skating is so fun that most of us want to skate all day every day, especially if we have school or a day job taking most of our time. That’s great, and it’s also how you progressJ but it’s also how chronic, over-use injuries can creep in and debilitate us with inflammation & tendonitis-type of flare ups. Doing the same sport or movements all the time can also result in some muscle groups being over-developed or stressed, while other antagonist muscles lack or atrophy. Taking a rest day or days is sometimes the only way to recover & heal chronic injuries, but nobody wants to just sit around inactive and why should you? Cross-training with other sports and exercises keeps you active & maintains overall fitness, while emphasizing other muscle groups & different movements. It can also give you a nice mental break, so when you come back to skateboarding you appreciate it that much more.
5. Consider Your Diet. No we’re not talking about weight-loss here or faddish skinny-bitch diets. We’re talking about how you properly fuel your body for performance, recovery and inflammation-control. What you eat directly plays a role & how you shred. Proper diet-analysis would require a separate article for sure, but you can start in the right direction by applying this simple but key philosophy: What you eat is fuel for performance & recovery: Is it helping or hurting your body? Always be aware & give every food choice an extra moment of consideration. Water is your life force & soda is your enemy. Excessive sugar & refined foods promote inflammation and cause spikes in blood-sugar & energy, while whole-foods and natural fruits & veggies & nuts are anti-inflammatory & alkalizing, and provide long-term, sustained energy. Healthy & FRESH oils such as olive, flax & cold-water fish, absolutely CRUSH inflammation head-on. So do raw nuts & nut-butters.
6. Apply the R.I.C.E. protocol to injuries both acute and chronic. Remember SOME muscle-soreness post-workout is actually good as it stimulates recovery & repair and tissue to grow stronger. Know the difference between normal post-workout SORENESS and INJURY. If it’s not getting any better, consider professional medical evaluation treatment. Skaters are as tough as they come. Many don’t have any insurance. There’s a lot you can do to help your own recovery for sure, but when in doubt, go get a professional evaluation, X-ray, MRI, etc. if possible. For most injuries, home therapy protocol hasn’t changed in years if not decades. At first especially in the acute stage, ICE! 20 minutes of ice-pack or ice-bath (even better), at least 3 times a day to reduce swelling & inflammation. Compression, meaning wrap the area with an ACE bandage to further reduce inflammation & to support the area. Elevation, allows more fluid to drain out of the area to reduce swelling & inflammation. (The R is for rest.) Inflammation & pain can also be further treated with OTC Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, (NSAIDs), such as Ibuprofen as directed by the bottle. After 48 hours post-injury, 20 mins of ice/cold can be alternated with 20 minutes of heat, to promote circulation. After all swelling and pain is gone, rehab can usually begin to prevent scar tissue from forming. Massage, foam-rollers, therapeutic exercise, etc. Consult a professional to be sure!
7. Consider a Multi-vitamin Supplement. Taken daily as part of your health & recovery regimen. Vitamins & supplements can be costly, but if you’re not always eating right then taking one quality multi-vitamin from a reputable brand, daily, can go a long way. Skaters & athletes demand more from our bodies than the average human. Nutrient-dense foods and strategic supplements can combine to give us the extra performance edge we require. One more reason to skate outdoors when possible: Produce FREE vitamin-D from natural sunlight while improving your mood! Vitamin-C is still one of the most critical vitamins of all, and is water-soluble so it is non-toxic. There are incredible JOINT-BLEND supplements available now that are actually proven to re-grow cartilage & nurture joints & soft-tissue such as ligaments & tendons, that contain ingredients such as Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM, Hyaluronic-Acid & Tumeric – all of which are very difficult to obtain in ideal amounts & proper ratios from food alone.