Sport-shy get their skates on

7th August 1998 at 01:00

The front flip and the shifty have become everyday terms for Germany's teachers as in-line skating joins the sports curriculum for nine to 12-year-olds.

Researchers at the German Sport Institute in Cologne believe it is one of the best ways to get even the most sport-shy child fit, as it is a strenuous and very popular activity - ahead of cycling and swimming and only trailing behind running.

Research by the Institute for Sports Medicine at the University of Frankfurt found in-line skating boosts co-ordination, reaction times and stamina of younger children.

Now 30 trainers from Cologne are travelling around Germany under a new programme funded by the state education ministry, the state health insurance and an American sports goods company which will provide free skates and protective gear to a number of inner-city schools so that even the poorest pupils can take part.

More than 1,300 teachers are to go on the institute's course in basic techniques. Some 10 million adults and children take to German streets on skates, but, according to Dr Bettina Schaar of the Sports Institute, only a third know how to brake properly.

"The rate of injuries is the highest of any sport except football, and most injuries are sustained while trying to stop," she says. Most people attempt to come to a halt by grabbing lamp-posts, fences, or sign-posts. Skaters can often reach speeds of up to 30 kmph, but faster than cyclists. Less than 3 per cent wear helmets.

In a pilot project in the state of Hessen, in-line skating was taught in 1,300 schools. "It was very successful. The number of injuries was reduced to nil," said Dr Schaar.

Several cities have shut off streets to traffic on weekends to provide skaters with a place to practise and in Berlin the education authority is giving children maps showing places to skate.

"Once the children are confident on their skates we teach them slalom techniques and floor hockey," says Andrea Perrot, sports teacher at Barnim primary in Berlin.

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