In the eyes of the law, snowboarding is skiing and no distinction is made between skiers and snowboarders. But this does not hold true for safety considerations. Of course, skiers and snowboarders should all wear helmets on the slopes and stay within their abilities. But according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, snowboarding is the leading cause of winter sports injuries among people under age 20.
Last winter, approximately 6.1 million snowboarders took to US slopes. Since 1983, the number of snowboarders has increased 77 percent, making it the country’s fastest growing winter sport.
And with the increase of participants comes the increase of injuries, the most common of which is an injury to the snowboarder’s wrist. Each season, physicians treat 100,000 wrist fractures. Wrist injuries are most prevalent among beginning snowboarders, who account for more than half of all snowboard injuries every year.
The best step to avoid injury is taking a professional lesson. A novice snowboarder will be taught to fall with hands in a fist position. When falling forward, fall onto the forearms as opposed to hands. During a fall backwards, let the buttocks catch the fall and avoid using your hands to brace yourself. The most important protection against a wrist injury is using a wrist guard.
Research shows the use of protective equipment- helmets, wrist guards and good-fitting bindings- has been associated with a 43 percent decrease in injuries.
Falling typically occurs when a snowboarder – especially when just starting out- “catches an edge.” This happens when an inexperienced rider is not riding on either toe-side (turning on the toe-side edge of the board, facing the slope) or heel-side (turning on the heel-side edge of the board with your back facing the slope). Instead, the metal edge along either side of the board cuts into the snow unexpectedly.
The following tips will help snowboarders to avoid wrist injuries this season:
- Learn boarding and fall techniques from an instructor
- When you fall forward, use your arms tucked in your chest to cushion your fall
- When falling background, fall on your buttocks first
- Whenever you fall, get in the habit of making a fist. Making a fist keeps your fingers from splaying out and your wrists from hyper-extending
- Use your forearms (instead of just your hands) to help keep your wrists from hyper-extending
- Putting your forearms down also helps protect your face from slamming into the snow
- If falling forward, absorbing impact with your knees helps to lessen the force with which you fall
- Typical safety gear consists of wrist guards (a few brands of gloves and mittens have wrist support built in), tailbone pads (a few brands of snow pants come with extra padding in the rear), elbow pads, knee pads and helmets