...but a danger to kids. Heelys is the brand name of the popular roller shoes--sneakers with wheels built into the heels that pop out when kids shift their weight back. So obviously this post is not about organized sport but it does fall broadly under the category of physical activity so I am going to write about. And also because when I saw kids whipping around on sidewalks and in the malls and in the grocery store, I knew that it would not be long before these things caused injuries or even death. (I saw one kid wheeling down the aisle of the grocery store pushing his baby sister's stroller and just rolled my eyes.) In other words, this is my "I told you so" moment even though I didn't really tell anyone.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission initially reported 64 known injuries and one death due to the shoes--which are starting to be banned in certain places I have noticed--in a 15-month period that ended in December 2006--the month where I am sure many more kids received the shoes as holiday gifts. But the number has been bumped up--way up--to 1,600 after taking another more thorough look at the data. Not sure exactly how 1,536 injuries were overlooked and then found in a week's time but 64 injuries seemed low given that most of the time kids are wearing these as regular shoes, walking about, and then just start rolling randomly--no protective gear at all.
Heelys claims the shoes are safer than skateboarding which is probably true at the moment. But one also takes on a certain known risk when one skateboards. (In fact skateboarding injuries have taken on a perverse war wound type status. See MTV's Scarred--if you can stomach it.) When a child uses Heelys, the risk is not considered. After all the child is not out to perform tricks with them. (Of course that is changing too. Check out the Heelys website where you can see if you have what it takes to join the pro team.) And most parents probably see them as a way to get kids active.
Heelys does say, on their website, what while protective gear is not required (by whom?) it is recommended and conveniently enough they sell it and tell you how to size it.
I think the increasing number of injuries due to the shoes (which Heelys waves off as simply a matter of the increase in sales--as if that mattered) will start to turn "heeling" into a sport/activity like skateboarding with restrictions on where it can be done and a concurrent emergence of a Heely (sub?)culture.