Over the past thirty years, snowboarding has evolved from a small group of young participants trying to be different, to an Olympic sport. Most recently, snowboarding has increasingly attracted older, winter athletes defecting from the ranks of traditional skiing.
Although there are many comparisons between skiing and snowboarding, the technical approach, as well as the injuries, differs. As opposed to skiing, both feet are braced to a single snowboard and face in the same direction, making lower extremity injuries rare.
The most common snowboarding injuries involve:
• Upper extremities. There is a natural inclination to extend the arm to break a fall. This produces a FOOSH (Fall On Out Stretched Hand) injury that can result in a wrist fracture. Other upper extremity injuries include wrist sprains, elbow and shoulder dislocations, rotator cuff injuries and broken collar bones. Upper extremity injuries are by far the most common snowboarding injuries.
• Head and neck. Concussions are very common due to the tendency of the board to drift out from under the rider on icy surfaces. This causes trauma to the back of the head and violently flexes the neck. Strained neck muscles and herniated discs may occur.
• Low back and hips. Repeatedly falling back will result in contusions to the low back and hips.
Learning to fall by crouching down and gently rolling to the side rather than extending the arm will avoid many upper extremity injuries. Never get on a snowboard without a helmet. Concussions can result in long-term brain damage and even death.
While learning to snowboard, invest in “crash pants” also worn by figure skaters who practice jumps. These fit tightly and are worn under ski pants. They contain padding that protects the low back and hips.
An exercise program with both aerobic and resistive components greatly helps in preparation. Stretching right before going out will keep ligaments limber and less prone to tearing.
After years of skiing, snowboarding may be a great mid-life adventure.