The ski industry was reluctant at first to embrace snowboarding as a sport because of concerns over safety and injury rates. Despite these concerns, snowboarding has dramatically increased in popularity over the past ten years in younger as well as older populations.
Beginner snowboarders are predisposed to injury due to their lack of balance when first learning the sport. Snowboarding injuries may vary from the simple abrasions, cuts and contusions to the more complex sprains, fractures and dislocations.
Common Snowboarding Injuries
Wrist Fractures and/or Sprains
Falls are the most common mechanism of injury in snowboarding, often resulting in wrist fractures and/or sprains. These injuries are sustained when a snowboarder loses his or her balance or catches an edge and attempts to break the fall with his or her hands.
Ankle sprains occur more frequently in snowboarders than in skiers mainly due to equipment differences. Ski boots are solid and prevent motion at the ankle, where snowboarders have a choice between a variety of types of boots.
- Soft-shell boots allow the most motion at the ankle and have been thought to contribute to an increase in ankle sprains.
- Hard shell boots are more similar to ski boots and have been thought to decrease the possibility of ankle sprains.
- Finally there are hybrid boots, which are basically a combination of the soft and hard shell boots.
Similar to ankle sprains, ankle fractures are more common in snowboarders than in skiers due to the equipment differences. Although not very common, a fracture of the lateral process of the talus is unique to snowboarders and can be disguised as a lateral ankle sprain.
A CT scan is often needed to diagnose this fracture because a normal X-ray usually does not pick up this fracture. The diagnosis and proper treatment of these fractures are of paramount importance because an untreated talus fracture has the possibility to lead to significant disability.
Prevention of Snowboarding Injuries
Maintain physical condition which matches the physical demands of snowboarding (refer to stretching and exercises below).
Wear protective equipment
- Wrist Guards: help decrease the possibility of wrist injuries
- Knee pads and elbow pads
Snowboarding lessons from a knowledgeable instructor: instructors teach proper snowboarding techniques, as well as safer techniques on how to fall which decrease the possibility of upper extremity injury.
Stretches to maintain flexibility necessary for snowboarding
Stretches should be held for a minimum of 30 seconds.
Stand with one hand holding onto the back of a chair to maintain balance. With the free hand, reach behind and grasp the instep of the lower extremity you want to stretch and bring it up toward your buttocks. You should feel a stretch in the front of your thigh.
Place the foot of the lower extremity you want to stretch on a chair. Lean forward slowly reaching down your leg until a stretch is felt in the back of your thigh.
Stand 2-3 feet away from a wall. Put your hands against the wall at about shoulder level to support your weight. Lean in toward the wall by bending your elbows until you feel a stretch in the back of your calves. Keep your body erect, your knees straight, and your hips forward. DO NOT bend at the waist. Make sure your heels remain on the ground. Alternate foot position by turning the feet outward, stretching, then inward, and repeating the stretch. To increase stretch, a book can be placed under the “ball” of the foot, letting the heels hang down.
Exercises for muscle groups used while snowboarding
Aerobic exercise, such as jogging or bicycling, is necessary to maintain overall physical endurance to prevent injury secondary to fatigue. Aerobic exercise should be done for 20-30 minutes at least 3 times a week.
Squats are a good exercise for the multiple muscle groups that are used during snowboarding. Squats are performed from a standing position with feet shoulder width apart.
The exercise begins by flexing the hips, knees and ankles until thighs are parallel to the floor. At that point, return to the standing position. Start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions and progress as appropriate.
Calf strength is necessary in snowboarding for performing turns as well as maintaining overall balance while snowboarding.
Toe/calf raises can be performed by standing on a step with heels hanging off the edge; slowly lower the heels then raise the heels until up on toes. Start with 3 sets of 20 repetitions and progress as appropriate.
Ankle exercise with an elastic band:
Ankle dorsiflexor strength is also necessary in snowboarding for performing turns as well as maintaining overall balance. This exercise can be performed while sitting on the floor facing a door.
The elastic band should be looped around the instep of the foot and anchored at the other end in the door jamb. After the elastic band is secured, the exercise is done by moving the ankle up toward the thigh against the resistance of the band. Start with 3 sets of 20 repetitions and progress as appropriate.
Abdominal strength is important in snowboarding for both maintaining balance as well as performing turns. This exercise is performed by crossing both arms across your chest and curling up your upper trunk so that your shoulder blades are raised off the floor. Start with 3 sets of 15 repetitions and progress as appropriate.