September 13, 1991


NYTimes6-13-91.jpg (120591 bytes)                                                         Rameshwar Das for The New York Times
Adam Roberts, an employee of Wheels in Westhampton Beach, L.I., gives demonstrations and lessons to skating amateurs.
How to Enjoy Blading Without Skinned Knees

In-line skating, on Rollerblades or their competitors, can provide summer fun and low-impact exercise that strengthens muscles. But for novice skaters who do not take proper precautions, the sport can be dangerous.

Most in-line skating accidents occur with first-time skaters, who often have some experience with roller skating or ice skating and assume inline skating, which is also known as blading, is the same.

It is not. Rollerblades go up to 30 miles an hour, much faster than other types of skates, and stopping is trickier. Most injuries happen to beginners who do not know how to stop. Skaters also fall because they do not know how to navigate cracks, skate over sand, oil and water, or turn.

Wrist guards, knee and elbow pads and regular bicycle helmets protect against some injuries, and many stores that sell such skates encourage customers to buy them. Wrist guards and knee and _eIbow pads cost about $25 a pair, while helmets range from $40 to $65, depending on the style and the thickness of the padding. Sales clerks and instructors say most helmets, regardless of cost, provide about the same proection.

But wearing protective gear does not guarantee protection from injury if the skater does not know the proper techniques for starting, stopping, breaking a fall and maintaining balance.

Doctors across the country say injuries have increased since last year as more people buy the skates. Sales have more than doubled from about $21.3 million in 1989 to $53.3 million in 1990, according to the National Sport Goods Association.

Since February, about 65 skaters have been treated at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, said Dr. Mayer Glosser, an emergency service physician who has been keeping track of blading injuries. The injuries have included minor scrapes and bruises, dislocated elbows and sprained or broken wrists. Some required surgery and caused permanent damage.

Many stores that sell skates also offer lessons. In New York City, Peck and Goodie, 917 Eighth Avenue; between 54th and 55th Streets, offers one-hour lessons for $5. Blades West, 105.. West 72d Street at Columbus Avenue, offers free impromptu lessons when skates are rented. Joel RappeIfeld, a blading instructor for four years, offers more intensive lessons through the store, giving two hour group lessons for $21 and private l-1/2 hour lessons for $40,

In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Park Patrol offers free one-hour lessons on Sundays. On Saturdays the Outdoor Roller Skating Association of America gives private lessons for $20, which includes skate rental, or $15 if you bring your own skates,

"Most people don't take advantage of the lessons," said Mr. RappeIfeld, the author of "The Complete Blader," which is to be published in the fall by St. Martin's Press. "They say. 'I'll try it first, then I'll take a lesson, maybe."

If you want to try blading, the experts suggest, the price of a lesson may be worth the safety it provides.