Dec 30, 2012

Staying safe on the ice

Who got skates for Christmas? Don't suppose you managed to get safety equipment, too, hmmm? Here's an overview:

All beginners should wear head protection. Period. I would love to see the federations start requiring it for everyone, but I'm a well-known maverick. As regular readers of this blog know, I'm sold on the Ice Halo. It's comfortable, stylish and functional for skating.  Other good choices are skateboard helmets, which have forehead protection, and a flat back. Bike helmets are not a good choice. The pointy backs on some helmets can snap your head forward if you fall backwards, adding whiplash to the injury.

Helmets must fit. A helmet that is too big or too small is essentially the same as no helmet at all. Do not wear a hat under the helmet. If you think you'll be cold without, get a do-rag, which will provide enough wind protection to keep your head warm. (Do rags are great for hockey players-- they keep the hair out of your face without having to resort to girl-stuff like scrunchies.)

Helmet alternatives
A soft hat is better than a helmet that doesn't fit. The Ice Halo is even better.

Wrist guards
I wouldn't hate to see all adult beginners in wrist guards. Adults commonly brace falls on their wrists, rather than aiming for tuck and roll. It's an instinct, very hard to fight. Wrist guards are the answer, plus they're unobtrusive.

Knee pads
I see more knee pads creating problems than solving them. If you feel you need them, don't get pads that stick out and catch on themselves or your clothing-- try to find the ace-bandage type that have a soft pad over the knee, rather than strap-on braces. Knee pads, especially on children, should not be made of slick plastic, because you won't be able to put your knee on the ice when trying to stand up--you'll just slide. Cover them with fabric, or put them under your clothes.

Hockey equipment
Are you in a game or scrimmage? Go for it-- full regalia. Are you messing around with your buds? I think you can skip the shoulder pads, at least. Shin guards should ALWAYS be covered with socks, otherwise it's an open invitation to sliding games, otherwise known as bowling on the ice, with the hockey boy as the bowling ball, and YOU as the pin. Or better yet, skip everything but the helmet when you're just out there for fun, you little wimps. 

A must for little kids. Gloves will avert more injuries than any other single item in a class or crowded public session. When little kids fall, they tend to stay on the ice, and they tend to put their hands on the ice. If another skater runs into their bare hands, they will get cut. With gloves on, even thin gloves, it just hurts. No gloves also means they'll need help getting up, because they won't want to put their hands down on the cold surface.

Not being stupid
• Don't carry things. No cameras. No purses. For pity's sake, no small children.
• Don't hold hands, or, if you do, remember to let go if someone starts to fall. If you hold hands, remember that this is not a guarantee of keeping your feet.
• Crack the whip, and pinwheels. Well, I'm not crazy about crack the whip, but I'm a known wimp. Don't play this game unless EVERYONE on the ice is involved and the guards are okay with it.
• Hot dogging. Like to go fast and crazy? Find an empty session. Hot dogging on crowded public ice doesn't prove your a good skater. It just proves you're an asshole.
• Public sessions. Not for multiple rotation jumps, hot dogging (see above). running programs, backward spirals, et cetera, unless it's one of those midday sessions that are empty.

Ice injuries are rare
If you skate only occasionally your odds are good against injury, even if you're not very good. Falls on the ice hurt, and are scary, but seldom result in injury. If you skate a lot, the odds go up, and you should consider some of the recommendations above. Beginner classes, in my opinion, should require head protection, and many rinks now do require this in tot classes. If your rink does not require helmets for tots or hockey classes, make them tell you why.


  1. It never ceases to amaze me the number of absolute beginners who do not wear helmets or at least a thick hat. Adults and toddlers (who are "head heavy" and topple easily) should wear something, anything. Yes, head injuries are rare, but when they do happen, they are stunning in their ability to keep a person down, make blood (a little scratch on the head with freak you out with the amount of blood it can create), and make you feel wobbly for a good long time, if not worse.

    Again, injuries are rare. I skate a lot of public sessions, and overwhelmingly the injuries I see are people trying to hot dog (speed skate, spin, jump) when they have no business trying it, or people being bowled over by hot doggers. And on that note, a rink with an active rink guard (a human on the ice who is watching out for really dangerous activities and has authority to reprimand or boot offenders off) is another piece of "safety equipment" you should look for. It might be fun to skate at wild west no-holds-barred rinks, but that's only until someone goofing off takes you out at the knees and you do a slapstick, arse over teakettle fall. Then it's not so fun anymore.

    1. And yes, when my skaters are on a public session with little kids, the rule is they may not raise their blades above the armpit level of the shortest person on the rink. No camel spins, no spirals, etc. A blade anywhere near a face is a scary thing.

  2. At most of the rinks I skate at, the guards are the problem half the time, and ignore the problems the other half.

    1. True. Maybe it's best to look for a rink with loud-mouth bossy adult skaters who aren't afraid to tell pipsqueaks to knock it off. Not that I know any such bossy skaters. *whistling*

    2. Xan, you are quite right. Most guards are useless at best, and often part of the problem.

  3. Another advantage of a do-rag under a helmet is that it helps absorb some of the sweat and keeps your helmet liner clean(er) for a longer period of time.

    Also, if buying a skateboard helmet, look for an ASTM F1492 certification. That tells you it was tested for multiple impacts. An additional problem with bike helmets (ASTM F1447) is that they can only withstand a single impact before they have to be replaced.

  4. Recently our link vigorously promotes to acquire new customers. Now is a holiday season and many (new) families come to the link for skating.

    Unfortunately I have witnessed some accidents. Once I saw the ambulance came to rescue. Most victims were adult skaters. They fell and could not even get themselves out of the ice without any assistance. I also saw one boy hit his face hard and bleeding badly.

    I understand that the link wants to sell group/private lessons to these new customers, but I feel something is wrong. Safety comes last.

  5. I've been a rink moniter for almost two years now, and in my experience, it isn't the adults that get hurt. They tend to be going too slow to have any real injuries. Most of the bad ones are a mixture of reckless teenagers and badly tied skates....

    1. Oh, man the badly tied skates. That drives me crazy. And at the Ice Rink of the Damned, the guards were not allowed to tell people their skates were poorly (or un-) tied because of some bullshit about liability (?)

    2. And kids who don't snap their helmet straps shut...

  6. You'll appreciate my priorities - Miss almost 13 got the ice halo for Christmas. Her birthday is in a month, just after she does a weekend crash (sorry - "intensive") course. Her skates will arrive in time for her birthday and the regular school term lessons..

  7. When I see someone on the ice with a camera or a cell phone (and I have time) I'll offer to take a picture for them so they can be in the picture together.

    And after that they're out of my way so I don't have to skate around them.

    1. I confess to TWS (texting while skating). But only when I'm alone on the ice.

  8. The Same AnonymousJanuary 1, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    Sorry to sound stupid... but what is hot dogging?

    Otherwise, I totally agree. Fortunately I've been skating at a slightly less wild rink recently. I saw someone with public skates that looked either waaaay too loose, extremely blunt, or both. The poor girl literally could not stay on her feet, which was really sad, as she was actually skating (and falling every few steps) quite boldly through the middle anyway, but then unsurprisingly became discouraged and went back to the barrier, probably thinking she was a terrible, embarassing skater and would never come back again.

    So I think that rinks need to take notice of safety too and maintain those public skates! I felt too nervous to give this woman advice to get new skates, but I really think that the ice monitor should have said something. The situation was dangerous AND discouraging for the skater.

    On another note, I love this blog and I hope you have a great 2013! :)