Live long — Board with a helmet

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Utahns may not be surprised their mountainous state is a longboarder mecca, but they may be surprised to learn that 15–24-year-old longboarders often end their pilgrimage in the hospital with traumatic brain injury.

Kids skateboard limbo before the award ceremony at the Helmet2Board Instagram competition. Photo by Elliott Miller
Kids skateboard limbo before the award ceremony at the Helmet2Board Instagram competition. Photo by Elliott Miller

Utah Valley Medical Center chair person Leslie Fabian and many of her colleagues at Utah County hospitals began noticing this trend and created the “Live Long — Board with a Helmet” event on June 29.

The motivation behind the event was to educate all ages about the importance of wearing a helmet while boarding. The event included an Instagram contest, where participants snapped a picture of themselves longboarding with a helmet and used the hashtag #helmet2board to win either a GoPro, a new longboard or a $100 gift certificate to Milo Sports.

Over 100 helmets were passed out along the Provo Canyon Trail to promote safety. According to Utah County injury statistics, the trail is where 30 percent of traumatic brain injuries occur.

“We started noticing that not only were there a lot of traumatic brain injuries, but that they were primarily from longboarding rather than skateboarding. We formed a coalition to help prevent these life-altering situations,” Fabian said.

The event, sponsored by Mountain Star, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and The Utah Valley Specialty Hospital teamed up with Milo Sports, Costco, BYU’s Health Science Department, the BYU Surf and Skate Club and other organizations in order to promote injury prevention.

“It would have taken me three seconds to put on a helmet had I chosen to,” said Kyle Johnson, a Layton native and speaker at the event, before he showed pictures of his fractured skull and spoke of his then-95 percent chance of death.

Johnson was an expert boarder, longboarding with a few friends in his neighborhood in 2010. Suddenly, he found himself in a hospital with traumatic brain injuries and didn’t know what would happen. He went onto recover fully and is now able to share his message: “Your choices matter.”

In 2006–2011, Utah Valley injury statistics showed that 834 boarding injuries were treated in Utah County emergency rooms; 474 of these were longboarding injuries, and 148 of those longboarders suffered a traumatic brain injury, compared to skateboarders with traumatic brain injuries during the same time period at only 43 people. Only four percent of injured longboarders treated were wearing helmets.

Many assume longboards are safer than skateboards. Rachel Morrey, a former BYU student and current health educator, said there is a big difference between skateboarders and longboarders.

“Skateboarders are more likely to be experienced and have years of practice, whereas most longboarders have no skateboarding history and may have never been on a board before,” Morrey said.

She went on to explain that skateboarding is often considered a long-term sport, where longboarding is primarily recreational or something BYU students use for dates.

Realizing this, the BYU Surf and Skate Club wanted to get involved for members’ sakes, as well as to promote safety to students. Being a club that is based on students’ interest in surfing, skateboarding, longboarding, etc., members felt it was important to get involved and promote helmet safety among current and upcoming BYU students.

Fourteen-year-old Brayden Brinkerhoff, from Lindon, won first place at the longboarding event for his artistic photo of him sliding in order to slow down, and for wearing a helmet while boarding. Free helmets, as well as what was learned during this event, won’t keep Brinkerhoff and boarders like him from road rash, but it will keep them from serious injury.