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Snowboarding injuries

From 1993 to 1996, the number of people who took up snowboarding more than doubled. And the legion of new "boarders" on the slopes continues to increase. In the 1990s, snowboarding has not only grown exponentially, it has risen above the label of "sport" to become a cultural phenomenon, with its own particular fashion and jargon.

Unfortunately, the downside of all this interest is an increase in snowboarding injuries. "The sheer increase in the volume of snowboarders out there on the mountain is in direct correlation to the increase of people we see in our clinic," says Dr. Andrew Parker, team physician of the NHL's Colorado Avalanche and a member of the Association of Professional Team Physicians. "More snowboarders simply equals more injuries."

Join Dr. Parker as he discusses the types of injuries he usually sees and what snowboarders can do so that injuries don't keep them from "riding" all winter long.

Has there been an increase in snowboarding injuries in the last few years?

Dr. Parker: Unquestionably. Obviously this is due to the increase in the number of snowboarders over the last few years. It's the sheer volume of people on the mountain -- more people, more injuries. I don't think it's an issue in terms of there being so many people snowboarding that it's people injuring people; I think it's more of the fact that if you have more people, there are going to be more injuries.

I also don't think there is much to the claim by skiers that snowboarders are out of control and cause more injuries. If skiing had a sudden boom in popularity, you would see more skiing injuries as well. It's simple numbers.

What are the most common injuries?

Dr. Parker: It's interesting. If you think about how you fall when you ski, you have a really long lever-arm in the form of a ski attached to your foot. So we see a lot of knee injuries, people tearing the anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs), for example. In snowboarding, your feet are pretty much strapped in to the board and aren't going anywhere, so we tend to see many more upper-extremity injuries than we see in skiing -- shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand injuries.

When snowboarders fall, they land on their hands, their shoulder, their rear-end or their head. One of those is going to take the brunt of the force as opposed to the typical skiing injury where there are going to be torque-type injuries on your knees and lower extremities.

Specific injuries include distal radius fractures -- wrist fractures. There are also wrist sprains and elbow contusions and dislocations. A lot of contusions and rotator cuff injuries in the shoulder. Broken collarbones. Concussions and other head and neck injuries.

What are the treatments for snowboarding injuries?



Q: I am 23 and I tore my ACL when I was 14. My doctor said I was too young to have the reconstructive surgery because I wasn't finished growing. I never had reconstructive surgery (but did have arthroscopic surgery) and continued to play high school and college football and baseball.

Now that I am not quite as active, I have a problem with stiffness and I also have pains when I walk up the stairs. I run fine with no pain, but I can tell that my knee is weaker than the other and I find myself guarding it. Do I need to have the reconstructive surgery now even though I can still play competitive sports with only some stiffness and occational pain? Or do I just need arthroscopic surgery again?
-- Jon Otto, Houston, Tex.

A: From Dr. Charles Burke, team physician for the Pittsburgh Penguins:
"I would recommend a repeat orthopedic exam. The problem with 'living with' an ACL-deficient knee is additional and ongoing damage to your knee. This can include torn cartilage (meniscus) and development of arthritis. Continuing to play sports could accelerate these problems. I am concerned about your symptoms of pain and stiffness. If you also are developing swelling, this indicates further problems."

Dr. Parker: In the same way with any other sport, the activity doesn't dictate the treatment -- the injury does. For wrist fractures, the relative young age of snowboarders may dictate a more aggressive form of treatment than you might normally see. In a general orthopedic practice, the greatest number of these injuries usually occurs in the elderly population. You tend to be less aggressive from the standpoint of surgical treatment with an older patient. Most of these people have their fractures lined up or reduced appropriately and then put in a cast or splint. In the younger population, while the fractures are usually not as bad because the bones are not as soft, if a break is comparatively significant, it will probably be treated more aggressively. This means either with open induction/internal fixation, which means making an incision, lining the bones up and holding them with screws or pins or placing something called an external fixator, which is a frame that goes outside the wrist connected to the bones through the skin.

Shoulder injuries are usually treated more conservatively with strengthening programs for the rotator cuff, anti-inflammatories for the contusions and swelling and rest for the general healing process. But again, the actual injury determines the aggressiveness of the treatment.

Can snowboarders do anything to prevent injuries?

Dr. Parker: You don't have to be an aggressive snowboarder to get injured just as you don't have to be an aggressive skier to sustain a significant knee injury. However, if you are going to put yourself in fairly dangerous situations by "boarding" in the trees or going off a lot of jumps and doing a lot of tricks, I think helmets are worth considering in those situations.

There is also probably much to be learned from the rollerblading phenomenon. You see rollerbladers with wrist guards and elbow guards to protect them from the pavement, but a mountain can be just as unforgiving. These pads would seem to be an inexpensive way for someone to protect the upper extremities, especially for the beginner who will fall a lot. The restrictive properties of these pads will help prevent injuries.

It's also important to remember that just because both are done on a mountain in the snow, snowboarding is quite different than skiing. I think people may think that just because they are good skiers, they will be good snowboarders and that is not the case. So take some lessons from a qualified teacher or someone who has done this a lot is a good idea for the beginning snowboarder to help prevent some of the injuries that we see.

Dr. Andrew Parker, a member of the Association of Professional Team Physicians (PTP), is currently team physician for the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL. He is a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and is also a consulting physician for the Denver Nuggets. Dr. Parker received his undergraduate degree from Occidental College in Los Angeles and his medical degree from Northwestern University in Chicago. He also completed his residency in Orthopedic Surgery at Northwestern University Medical School and was a Knee and Sports Medicine Fellow at Louisiana State University.

Training for Snowboarding

- When you are not actually on the slopes, or it is one of the other 51 weeks a year that the normal person is not on holiday, training for your sport will always make it easier. Snowboarding takes advantage of the legs and abdominals. Running, Squats and lunges work well to improve muscles in your legs, and boost your cardiovascular fitness. Crunches, or any other of the plethora of abdominal exercises will help tremendously as well, but remember to work the back muscles also. General flexibility will reduce the chance of sprains and make everything slightly less painful.


Are you regular or goofy footed? This describes your footing. If you lead with your left foot you ride regular. Right, Goofy. Does it matter? Nope. Whatever is most comfortable. One easy way to find out is to stand straight and have someone push you from behind, or walk up a set of stairs. Which ever foot comes first most likely is the one you want to lead with on your board. Setting up your binding angles is pretty much a personal preference. Typically you will have your front foot at 10-25 degrees and your back foot at around 0-5 degrees. These are the common freeride settings. If you are looking for more of a freestyle option that will allow better swivle movement of your body use a 0-15 degree setting on the front foot and 0-10 degree setting on the back. You want to make sure that your boots dont hang over too much for this can prevent clean turns. A little is fine the boots are designed to take a beating but make sure its not effecting your riding. If it hangs over too much adjust your bindings position on the board and possiblly adjust the bindings back support if has one.

Snowboarding is largely about applying the correct pressure on the right areas of the board. When going down a hill you want to apply pressure to the front of the board by shifting your weight to the front. When I first started learning I was putting pressure to the back foot which helped out in me in wiping out a couple hundred of times. You do not have control if pressure is not in the front. Think of it as a badminton. When it is in the air it goes down to where the weight is. Same thing with snowboarding going down a hill.

Learning to fall and stop in the beginning is one of the best things you can do as a beginner. Because when you are going down a hill, don't have control, and are about to hit that little kid, you want to be able to avoid it. This holds true for avoiding trees too which can be more deadly.

To help increase balance keep your hands low, with one on each side of the board doing this provides the greatest range of balancing movements.

Always look torward the direction you want to go. This helps because your body will naturally want to shift wait to gain balance.

I would definately suggest spending the extra dinero and buying Gortex/Waterproof-breathable clothing. This way you prevent having to buy equipment twice after you realize how horrible it feels to be wet, have trapped sweat between you and the apparellel, and or freezing. Spend the extra cash on reliable equipment. It makes a world of difference.

Carrying Powerbars, or any type of energy bar is a great idea. They are generally small/thin and fit easily in a pocket and can fill you up better than a sandwidch. I will occasionally tear through one during a lift. One thing to watch out for is if you store them in an outside pocket the cold weather can make them has hard as an icicle. This can also be avoided by getting the softer bars which take even longer to freeze up typically.

Having problems with snow collecting on the top of your board? Try Pledge! Several people tell me it works great! (If you have stickers on your board you might not want to do this for it will soak through them). But hey, if you want to get rid of stickers there you go. :)

Lifts range from small rope tows all the way up to huge cable cars. The most common is the chair lift. These are the ones that most people enjoy because they are typically quick, and you can keep your gear on (most resorts make you remove your rear boot from its' binding so you can get on the lift properly, and of course you kind of need to peddle your board anyhow). Make sure you have a leash attached to your binding and boot so if you lose a binding your board does not end up flying down the hill and taking out anyone. There are two types of chairlifts available, those that are always connected to the cable in one spot, and those that detach so they can go slower for loading and then attach back to a spot on the cable once you are in one. If it is your first time on a lift tell the operators so they can take precautions for you. Good etiquette when getting off a lift is to ask where your fellow riders will be getting off, as in.. right or left. That way you can plan to not knock down each other once getting off the lift. If you are getting off a lift and start to lose balance dont grab onto the other riders to try and keep up or you will create a domino effect with the end result of more than just you on the ground crashed. Immediately get away from the unloading area so that other riders that are getting off do not run into you.

Dress warm and make sure you have water proof gear because it sucks to be wet and cold. Hypothermia and frostbite are not fun either. Also make sure you have a good pair of goggles (or shades if you are good) to protect you from the power UVB rays on the slopes. The snow intensifies it by reflecting it everywhere.

Planning when to go out. This site has a great weather section for checking out how the conditions will be at your resort. Also if you are new, it is even more beneficial to go on non-peak times so you have more time and terrain for yourself. Weekends and school holidays are usually the busiest. The worst is typically around winter vacation because a lot of people of that time off from school and work and the conditions are typically decent depending on where you are.

Helmets and Wrist Guards:
Boarders run into a lot less injuries than skiers because your legs are together at all times. There are some precautions you want to take while boarding.

Wrist Guards-Wrists injuries are at the top for snowboarders and every boarder with experience can tell you how bad it hurts to mess up a wrist. A great solution is to get a set of wrist guards. There are wrist guards you can simple slip into your existing pair of gloves and those that sell with gloves as a built in device. Buy purchasing a set you lower the risk of damaging your wrists tremendously and being it is the most common injury, that is a pretty good deal. Fogdog sells wrist guards and also more expensive gloves with them built in.

Helmets- Alright I will be the first to admit, helmets look goofy. But you know what? They save lives. Helmets more and more are looking stream lined and decent. I am sure bike riders felt the same way as a lot of us about them at one time. I have to say, every day I am looking for news for this site I find yet another article about yet a boarder who has died. I am seriously re-evaluating my look on helmets. They protect you and are worth the investment. The people you see on the mountain, you won't typically see them again any how. As you can see below in the submitted tips a lot of people suggest to wear a helmet. I suspect this is from their experience. Let's not go through the same bad experience. They are also available @ Fogdog.

Gear Maintenance-

You should wax your board at least every second or third day you hit the hills. Your board will run faster, and waxing will protect the base from the abrasion caused by snow, ice, and the occasion rock. Tired of having to take your board to the shop to get it waxed and then wait till they are done, which could be as long as a week? What about the price to have it done? Tired of that too? Waxing your board is not that tough. It is actually easier than you think.
Click here for a great how-to...

Been going over rocks and boulders? Starting to lose grip of those turns? Tired of paying $$$ to have your sides sharpened? Do it yourself.
Click here for a great how-to...

Have gauges in your board? What about lines from rocks scraped into your base?
Here is another how-to on repairing these.
Click here for a great how-to...

Finding Gear-

Still looking for a board? Snowboarding-Online and MSN have great utilitys that will match you up with a board and also lists estimated prices.
Click Here to check out Board Search 2001
Click here to check it out Snowboarding-Online's Board Genie (1999-2000)
Click here to check out MSN's Eshop

Some online stores with great prices are Fogdog Sports,

No matter home lame you may think it is, spend the measly $20 or so and take lessons. By doing this you avoid picking up any bad habits that can hamper you getting better quicker, plus it gives you a good feel for the basic movements.



Nose Grab- With your front hand, grab the nose (tip) of the board and bone out your back leg.


Method- With your leading hand, grab the board on the heel side edge near your front foot and tweak it up like in the animation.


Mute- With your front hand, grab the toeside edge of the board in-between the bindings.


Indy- With your rear hand, grab the board on the toe side edge between your boots.


Stalefish- With your rear hand, grab the board on the heelside edge between your legs. For added style, shifty the board mid-grab.


Tail Grab- With your rear hand, grab the tail of the board and bone out your front leg.


Backside Rodeo- Find a nice sized table with a smooth takeoff. Come up to the kicker carving toeside. At the lip of the table you want to throw your body backwards to the jump and turn 90 degrees. Tuck yourself up nicely and grab melancholy. Stay tucked and keep grabbing, you'll start to see the ground. Once this happens, start turning your body backside a little bit, only 90 degrees, and then you can release your grab and prepare for landing. You should be landing fakie. Practicing nice backside 180's can help you with the landing. Hopefully you rotated enough and could spot your landing through your legs.


50-50- Ollie high enough to get on the handrail, trying to focus on landing on it centered. Bend your knees for stability and stay centered by using your shoulders and arms. Lightly ollie off of the rail and prepare for landing. Try and land with a flat base or slightly on the tail.


Backside 540- Drop in on your frontside wall with plenty of speed. Carve on your heelside edge, without speed checking, until you reach the backside wall. Ease off on your carve a little bit. Right before you hit the lip, slightly pop off of your tail twist your lead shoulder towards the tail of your board to initiate the spin. Keep your head low, bend your knees, and grab. Keep turning your head and try to spot the landing. Remember that you should keep your weight in the middle or slightly in front of your board to avoid slipping out on your tail.


Slider- Go up your frontside wall. Once you're in the air, grab indy. Work your indy hand back so it "slides" down your board into a tailgrab. Release the grab before your tail slaps down and you've just learned yourself a new trick.


Backside Alley-oop- Go up your frontside wall like you're going to do an air to fakie. Start looking up the pipe when you take off on your toe edge, which will cause your board to follow this motion. You have to spin about 270 degrees to land this trick. Once you become more comfortable with alley-oops, you can throw in a method grab for added style.


Backside 180- Approach the jump with enough speed to make the landing. Take of with a flat base and begin rotating by looking over your rear shoulder. Grab indy and bone out your front leg to gain more control. Spot the landing by looking in-between your legs. Bend your knees and touch down. Try not to lean too far back or you'll sketch out on the landing.


Backside 360- Come up your backside wall on your heel edge. At the top of the lip, pop off and rotate your head and shoulders towards the tail of the board to initiate the spin. Grab and use the force to let you know when to plant because the landing is blind. You'll get wrecked if you under-rotate this trick.


Frontside 360- Keep your base flat going up to the lip. Spring off of your tail and turn your head and leading shoulder and keep on looking behind you. Raise your knees for stability (and to make grabs easier). You can either land blindly if you didn't have enough time to spot your landing, or you can look in-between your legs.


Frontside 360 Switch Method- Come up the frontside wall on your toe edge. Pop off of the lip and begin rotation by spinning your upper body and head. Once you have rotated 180 degrees and are facing back in the pipe, grab switch method, or stalefish (but make sure to bend your knees and tweak it up). Rotate the last 180 and land on the vert.


Frontside 540- Approach the frontside wall with a lot of speed. Start rotating by turning your shoulders hard frontside. Bend your knees and throw in a grab. Keep turning your head and looking where you want to go. Spot the landing and ride out clean.


Backside Rodeo- Find a nice sized table with a smooth takeoff. Come up to the kicker carving toeside. At the lip of the table you want to throw your body backwards to the jump and turn 90 degrees. Tuck yourself up nicely and grab melancholy. Stay tucked and keep grabbing, you'll start to see the ground. Once this happens, start turning your body backside a little bit, only 90 degrees, and then you can release your grab and prepare for landing. You should be landing fakie. Practicing nice backside 180's can help you with the landing. Hopefully you rotated enough and could spot your landing through your legs.


McTwist- This trick is basically a front flip 540 in the pipe. Ride up the backside wall with moderate to fast speed, enough to get you about 2 feet out. Once you get to the top of the lip, throw your front arm down and a little bit behind your back leg. Make sure to tuck. Grab mute with your front hand and try and bone out for some added style. Keep watching over your rear shoulder and down. The flip is almost complete, so you now need to turn your head backside to land going regular down the backside wall of the pipe.

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