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Health Team

Wakeboarding increases risk of head injuries to children

Posted July 21, 2011

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— Wakeboarding, the water sport version of skateboarding, is increasingly popular among children and teenagers, but it's sending many young people to the emergency room with serious head injuries.

Chris Jadelis, 16, of Apex, fractured his skull in a fall while wakeboarding during a family trip June 5.

"I barely remember the trip itself, and actually when I started to wakeboard, I don't remember anything after that," Chris said.

"He had a big gash in his head, and he was bleeding," his mother, Loretta Jadelis, said.

Doctors said they aren't sure what Chris' head hit, but they believe that, as with many such injuries ER doctors see, it was probably the wakeboard itself.

"Recent research shows that the risk of a head injury in wakeboarding is about five to 10 times that compared to waterskiing," WakeMed pediatrician Dr. Mark Piehl said.

A wakeboard is bigger than skis, has a sharp edge and keeps a person's feet strapped in tighter than skis do.

Wakeboarding increases risk of head injuries to children Wakeboarding increases risk of head injuries to children

Because of such risks, fun-seekers must be tightly strapped into helmets at Coble Water Ski and Wakeboarding School near Lillington.

"Safety is our No. 1 concern," camp owner April Coble said.

Coble used to just strongly recommended helmets but started requiring them for all high-impact water sports after a few wakeboarding injuries at the school a few years ago, she said. Protex, a company that makes water sports helments, provides them free to her students.

"(With) the momentum of the board hitting you in the head, it doesn't take a big hit," Coble said. "The momentum, it's harder than you think."

Ski schools teach important safety skills that people who start out knee-boarding or wakeboarding without instruction miss out on, she said.

Piehl said that any sport that can result in hard hits to the head – such as biking, skateboarding or snow skiing – should require a helmet at all times.

Loretta Jadelis said a helmet will be the rule on future family trips to the lake.

"It's the same thing as when he goes out on his mountain bike. He wears a helmet," she said.

Chris said he still wants to wakeboard when he completely recovers from his injury.

"I'll get up and go, I guess, but not without that helmet, because I don't want that to happen again," he said.

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  • hywilson Jul 28, 2011

    Who would have guessed that strapping yourself to a wooden (or whatever other material they are made of) board and tying it behind a boat going 60 mph would be dangerous! Thank goodness for this research. What would we do without researchers???

  • collint2 Jul 27, 2011

    Thanks! If anyone wants a free wakeboard and boat please let me know, I didn't know they were so dangerous!!

  • readme Jul 27, 2011

    Soon it will be banned or invalidate your insurance. Just like diving boards. I expect trampolines to be on the hit list soon. I'd say snowboarding and skiing, but that would impact business too much, so it will remain allowed. Gone is the era of personal accountability. Now we have our regulators to look out for us.

  • Pseudonym Jul 26, 2011

    Hater like Darth Vader,

    Interesting hypothesis, however, I'd rather research whether Hagen-Daas is better than Ben and Jerry's.

  • Miss Jexy Jul 26, 2011

    Thank you, Captain Obvious.

  • Hater like Darth Vader Jul 22, 2011

    Seriously, where do I sign up to get paid to research things like this? I want to research if stepping in fire ants is more dangerous than stepping in black ants.

  • wakeboardernc Jul 22, 2011

    Once again, WRAL makes something out of nothing. If you are going to report a story try to use the right terms at least. Wakeboarding is nothing like skateboarding on the water. That is wake skating. Maybe you should research before you post a story! Guess you guys were bored today and had to find something to dramatize.

  • WRALSUCKS Jul 21, 2011

    Sitting at home doing nothing , or playing video games all day is even more dangerous.

    I'm sick of these whiny "growing up is dangerous" , or "lets create a crisis" articles.