Cautionary tale: 'Skitching' not worth the ride
August 17, 2007
By Eva McKendrick Staff Writer
A Lisle teen who suffered severe head trauma after a skateboarding accident recently was released to a rehabilitation facility Aug. 15.
Eric Field, 14, was riding his skateboard Aug. 1 while holding onto a moving vehicle, a practice commonly called "skitching," when he fell and cracked his skull. Field was not wearing a helmet and was taken to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.
"He should make a fairly meaningful recovery," said Michael Iwanicki, the trauma director and co-director of critical care at Good Samaritan. He was also Field's critical care doctor.
Field was admitted to the hospital with skull fractures and bleeding, swelling and bruising in and around the brain.
For the next few weeks, doctors said Field will stay in traumatic brain injury rehabilitation at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, where he will work on daily living activities such as brushing his teeth, combing his hair and getting dressed. But he already has made significant progress. After spending several days in a drug-induced coma, Field is able to perform functions such as writing and reciting his name and the date.
"It's been a crazy couple of days," said Joe Field, Eric's father.
Joe, a 55-year-old truck driver, said Eric ate his first meal the morning of Aug. 14 and has full motor control. Even though Field was lucky, Joe doesn't want people to think they can participate in this kind of risky behavior and be on their feet again in a few weeks. He said his son was extremely lucky.
According to Illinois state statute, clinging to vehicles while "riding upon any bicycle, coaster, roller skates, sled or toy" is prohibited.
Joe said he is planning on pressing charges against the 18-year-old driver of the car.
"If you've got a driver's license, you're responsible for everyone in that car," he said. "Anyway you look at it, that conduct (driving a skitcher) is reckless."
In the past few weeks, doctors at Good Samaritan said they have seen four accidents involving skitching and car surfing. All of the victims were adolescent males. One victim died, and Good Samaritan neurosurgeon Stavros Maltezos said there is a good chance another will stay in a permanent vegetative state.
"The common denominator is testosterone," Maltezos said.
Iwanicki said there are 50,000 skateboarding-related injuries every year, 15,000 of which are severe in nature.
Iwanicki said this summer has been especially bad for these types of accidents. Good Samaritan is launching a helmet safety program to reach teens and prevent risky behavior. The program, "From street to vert ... brains need buckets," will kick off with a free helmet distribution event Sept. 8.
Maltezos said the severity of Field's injuries could have been prevented with a helmet, which is designed to absorb the impact from the fall. Instead, Field's skull took the impact.
With or without a helmet, holding onto cars while riding a skateboard don't mix, authorities have said.