Like all extreme sports, street luge is not for the faint of heart. Riders are subject to high levels of injury and even the pros admit that this is an extremely dangerous sport. With the body so close to the road, some of the most common injuries are those that occur when body parts hit the road surface. Simple steering can cause the elbows or shoulders to hit the road surface, resulting in bumps and bruises, broken elbows or dislocated shoulders.
Because street luge participants reach great speeds, they're also subject to frequent crashes and wipeouts. This can occur if the rider loses control around a curve, collides with another rider during a race, or encounters obstacles in the road. When you fall off a street luge at high speeds, be prepared for serious injury, which may include broken bones or even head and neck injuries [source: Lott].
To lower the risk of injury, riders wear specialized safety gear on both recreational and competitive rides. Leather suits are worn to protect the skin from road rash and cuts. The elbows, knees, shoulders and spine of the suits are often lined with body armor to further protect the body during a crash. Heavy-duty leather gloves are used to protect the hands, and may have rubber pads on the fingers to help with pushing off. Because of the demands of braking, shoes must be very heavy-duty, with extra rubber padding to hold up against heat and friction [source: O'Neill].
All street luge riders should also wear a helmet equipped with a full-face mask. It may seem uncomfortable to ride with a helmet on, but it's nothing compared to the danger of hitting your head during a major wipeout. The facemask on the helmet protects the eyes and face from flying stones and debris and can also keep road rash at bay during a crash.
To fully prepare yourself for the dangers of street luge, think of crashes in terms of when, not if. Plan your rides with the knowledge that eventually you will wipe out. This way, you'll be more likely to wear the proper safety gear and to choose routes that will keep you safe while still providing big thrills.
Once you're suited up, keep these safety tips in mind as you start learning to ride:
- Start slow. Find small hills to begin. You'll be surprised just how fast your ride will feel on a street luge sled, even at a relatively low speed.
- Consider taking classes. By learning from more experienced riders, you'll get a more realistic view of the dangers involved in street luge and also learn how to minimize your risk.
- Choose safe riding routes. You'll have enough to think about as you learn to control your board. Don't add traffic or obstacle-filled routes into the mix, too.
- Maintain your equipment. Some of the most common causes of wipeouts for street lugers are equipment failures. A wheel falling off the board or a broken axle can quickly ruin your ride. Keep your gear well maintained, and invest in high-quality equipment to help lower your risk of accidents and injuries [source: O'Neill].