Skate plaza opening focuses on safety

Ribbon cutting ceremonies at skate plazas are just a little out of the ordinary, as skateboard enthusiast Carlo Leo demonstrates Saturday at Bayne Park. Photo by Connie Rankin for The Citizen

The dedication of Bellevue’s new skate plaza and the borough’s annual Health & Safety Day dovetailed nicely last Saturday, as officials and experts took the opportunity to educate dozens of children about how to skateboard safely.

The plaza already has been the scene of one brain injury that occurred in a fall by a youth who was not wearing a helmet. Adam Bistrican, 14, of Bellevue, told the crowd at the plaza dedication about the weeks of headaches, nausea, and the inability to participate in his favorite activities.

His was a common experience, said board certified emergency medicine physician Dr. Brian Popov of the Allegheny General Hospital - Suburban Campus urgent care facility, where Adam was taken after his fall.

Popov explained that the true brain injury comes not from the actual hit on the head, but from the resulting movement of the brain inside the skull, so that a child may suffer a concussion despite there being little or no contact between the head and a hard surface. People of any age can suffer permanent impairment and death from brain injury, and Popov urged skateboarders to wear helmets to help prevent or lessen the impact of falls.

Experts give the following advice about choosing and wearing a helmet:

1. Be sure your helmet is certified to meet or exceed safety standards of U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or Snell Memorial Foundation. You may need to try on several sizes and models to find a helmet that fits your head correctly.

2. A properly fitting helmet:

Is worn flat on your head with the bottom edge parallel to the ground

Sits low on your forehead

Has side straps that form a “V” shape around each ear.

Has a buckle that fastens tightly (there should be room to put only two fingers between the strap and your chin)

Has pads inside that you install or remove so the helmet fits snugly

Does not move in any direction when you shake your head

Does not interfere with your movement, vision or hearing.

3. Your helmet should be level, feel solid on your head and be comfortable. It should not bump on your glasses (if it does, tighten the nape strap) If it still does not fit that way, keep working with the straps and pads, or try another helmet.

4. Replace your helmet when it is damaged, outgrown or at least every five years. You may need to replace it sooner if the manufacturer recommends it.

AGH and Bellevue gave away free helmets, and clinics and contests were held throughout the day to educate young skateboarders. By law, children under age 12 must wear a helmet at the plaza.

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