Question of the Week

June 11, 2007


Maybe you've seen them. Maybe you've worn them. Maybe you've had someone zip by you "heeling" down the hallway at school or through the mall. With millions of pairs sold worldwide, and no sign of their popularity declining, it looks like Heelys are here to stay.

For those who enjoy wearing them, this is great news. For others, this is cause for concern.

"The consumer watchdog group 'W.A.T.C.H.' – which stands for World Against Toys Causing Harm–dubbed Heelys the most dangerous toy of 2006; and safety experts say this craze has been wheeling kids into hospital emergency rooms. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says it has received about 70 reports of serious injuries connected to these shoes and one report of a Heely-related death. ..."">

Most people don't consider what safety precautions they will need to take when putting on their shoes, and many consider Heelys as nothing more than shoes.

"The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) stresses the importance of protective gear while engaging in a particularly new phenomenon...heeling. Heeleys -- also known as roller shoes or street gliders -- are shoes that have a wheel on the heel. These types of shoes fall into the category of inline skates, which qualifies them as a sport, and carries warnings for their use including wearing protective gear, such as wrist guards and helmets to avoid injuries. According to James H. Beaty, MD, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon and president of AAOS, 'Orthopaedic surgeons are in fact seeing children come into their practices with injuries due to heeleys, mostly of a fracture-type within the hand, wrist, or elbow.' The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports over 1,600 emergency room visits in 2006 due to wheel and roller shoes. In addition, balancing on heels can strain feet and Achilles tendons, and orthopaedic surgeons are also seeing heely-related ankle injuries."
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

The surgeons who see the results of the injuries are concerned and want those using Heelys to be more careful and wear protective gear.

Those who make the shoes, tend to agree. The following is some of the safety information that can be found on the Heelys website:

"When using your Heelys skate shoes in the 'walking' or 'shoe' mode, always remove the wheels. ...
NEVER skate faster than you can run.
NEVER skate in or near streets, around traffic, or stairs.
NEVER try to skate over cracks, or through rocks, sand, or water.
ALWAYS wear protective gear. ...
While using protective gear cannot guarantee your safety, it could greatly reduce your chances of injury. ... It is highly recommended to wear a Heelys helmet, wrist guards, knee pads, and elbow pads when using your Heelys skate shoes. Be sure to avoid cracks, and skate only on smooth, stable, dry surfaces. Do NOT skate over rocks, sand, or water."">

Heelys CAN be dangerous, and safety precautions CAN be taken to reduce the risks.

Heelys can also be used to help kids get active, get some exercise, and have some fun in the process.

"It's a Heelys party, held the first Saturday of the month at Mountainside Fitness in Mesa. For two hours, kids can skate in a safe space, learn to be courteous of others and get active. 'The main rule is to have fun and learn to get along with others,' says Gina McDonough, fitness director at Mountainside Fitness in Mesa and the brains behind the party. ... McDonough's inspiration for the party came from her own daughter, Kori, 9.
'My daughter loves to Heely, and everywhere we went it didn't seem safe to be doing it,' says McDonough. ... In addition to letting the kids skate, volunteers organize games and exercises to help them develop coordination. Ever the fitness advocate, McDonough also had another motive for organizing the party -- getting kids active. The American Heart Association estimates that 11 million children in the United States are overweight and 13 million others are on the cusp of being overweight. ... After a two-minute skate around the basketball court, the kids are already panting and heading over for a sip of water. The warm-up session is followed by relays, races and games such as red light, green light and musical chairs. Volunteer moms such as Ivey and Cassidy's mother, Dodie Blomberg, organize the games and teach the kids about Heelys etiquette."

Questions of the Week:
What precautions can be taken to help those using Heelys (or any other roller shoes) to have fun and reduce the risk of injury? How would you present this information in a way so that those who wear the shoes (mostly kids and pre-teens) would see the need and want to take the necessary precautions? What can those who don't use Heelys do to help those who do have a safer and more enjoyable experience? What can those who do use Heelys do to keep themselves and those around them safer?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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