Snow sports continue to grow in popularity in the US, with over 50 million estimated trips in the 2019-20 season. Snowboarding is one of these sports, which now ranks alongside skiing in popularity. But what about the risk of snowboarding injuries?
Snowboarding strengthens lower body muscles, improves flexibility, works the core, and is a lot of fun. First developed in the 1960s, it gained traction when surfers and skaters got involved, and by the 1980s, it was a nationwide activity. But like any sport, the fun does come with risks.
If you are aware of common snowboarding injuries, you can know how to prevent them. Read on for five of the most common injuries snowboarders experience.
1. Wrist Injury
Upper limb injuries, especially to the wrists, are the most common snowboarding injuries. Your wrists take the hit when you fall, which can be a lot for a beginner. When you do not know how to fall correctly, it is instinctive to stop your fall with outstretched hands, arms, and wrists, as you cannot use your legs.
The result? Usually, a wrist injury, which can take months to heal and even lead to severe complications. You may end up with a sprain, sometimes called a “jammed” wrist or a wrist fracture.
A wrist fracture can take around eight weeks to heal, or more depending on the fracture type. The common wrist fractures from snowboarding are:
- Colles fracture
- Scaphoid fracture
- Dorsal chip fracture
- Lunate fracture
If you get a wrist injury from snowboarding, do not ignore warning signs that you need treatment. Without treatment, you can develop various issues such as osteoarthritis, chronic pain, and nerve or blood vessel damage. Plus, you will not be able to return to the slopes without the risk of further injury.
Wrist Injury Treatment
Treatment varies dependable on the wrist injury. For a wrist sprain, you should rest for at least 48 hours. You can apply ice, use a compression bandage, and elevate it.
If the problem persists or you experience a wrist fracture, it is essential to seek medical treatment. A trained physician can determine what the injury is and what treatment you need. You may need to use wrist support, complete a course of medication, do physical therapy, or you may need surgery.
How To Prevent Wrist Injury
Wrist guards are an affordable and easy way to help prevent wrist injury. They are also widely available. If you experience carpal tunnel or wrist weakness in general, you can try some exercises to strengthen your wrists.
Also, taking beginner snowboarding classes will help you learn how to fall correctly to protect your wrists and reduce the chance of wrist injury.
2. Shoulder Injury
Shoulder injuries are common snowboarding injuries. You can fall on your shoulder, or the shoulders or elbows take the impact when you fall with outstretched hands. If you do not get a broken arm or elbow injury, your shoulder will likely take the impact.
Some shoulder injuries include:
- Rotator cuff strain
- Acromioclavicular (AC) separation
AC separation is when your collar bone separates from your shoulder blade. It usually happens if you fall on it. Most shoulder injuries take six to eight weeks to heal with treatment.
Rotator cuff strain or tear when snowboarding usually happens if you fall on your shoulder. Usually, it causes intense and immediate pain. It needs medical attention to prevent loss of function in your hand and arm.
Dislocation usually happens if there is a twisting force on your arm and shoulder as you fall or if you land on the shoulder. It causes the ball to pop out of the joint.
Shoulder Injury Treatment
Like with any of the common snowboarding injuries, it is important to get medical treatment to determine the problem. You may have injured your hand and elbow as well as your shoulder or have a different injury than what you suspect.
Dislocation treatment is unpleasant but straightforward, and you may need follow-up treatment to improve mobility and strength. Snowboarders who have dislocated a joint more than once may find it more manageable. Frequent dislocation can suggest a more complex injury such as a tear.
Like a wrist fracture, you may need surgery, especially if symptoms do not improve after three to six months. A rotator cuff or AC separation are common injuries that can require surgery. You may also need to complete physical therapy to stabilize and strengthen your shoulders.
How To Prevent Shoulder Injury
The best way to prevent shoulder injury is to fall correctly. A snowboarding instructor should teach you this. You have to pull in your arms, keeping your head and shoulders tucked in to prevent injury. It prevents the impact of the fall targeting one joint or limb; instead, a larger area of your body takes the hit.
3. Head Injury
Upper limb injuries are more common when snowboarding compared to skiing because of how you snowboard. Head injuries are also more common. You are in a fixed position, have less balance without sticks, and easily fall backward or forward.
Head injuries are not always serious, but they often cause concussions and fractures. A concussion is a mild type of brain injury, with symptoms such as:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Confusion or memory problems
- Dizziness or blurred vision
- Light and noise sensitivity
- Feeling groggy
Concussion requires hospital attention to rule out more severe injuries. With rehabilitation, recovery is promising, usually within two weeks.
However, other head injuries can be more severe, such as blood clots, resulting in serious brain injuries that impact your life. It can even cause death.
Head Injury Treatment
Concussion recovery usually involves a lot of rest. It also involves slowly reintroducing activities to avoid triggering symptoms. For example, smartphone use, listening to loud music, and physical activity can exacerbate concussion symptoms.
With any head injury, medical attention is required to diagnose the problem. It will involve different tests, including blood tests, CT, and MRI scans. Treatment can require surgery, hospital admission, and rehabilitation with a team of professionals.
How To Prevent Head Injury
The easiest way to prevent head injury is using a helmet. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced snowboarder, the risk of falling remains. Plus, sometimes accidents happen due to collisions, which can be entirely out of your control.
A snowboarding helmet will prevent you from a serious head injury when falling, and it can even save your life.
4. Ankle Injury
Ankle injuries are one of the most common snowboarding injuries to impact the lower body. They make up roughly 16% of all snowboarding injuries. Ankle injuries tend to happen in your lead leg from falling or landing after an aerial move.
Several injuries can happen, including a sprain or snowboarder’s ankle, which is a specific fracture that occurs when snowboarding. It occurs when your foot turns inwards and upwards suddenly.
X-rays can miss ankle injuries such as snowboarder’s ankle, but symptoms are similar to a severely sprained ankle. It often includes swelling, bruising, tenderness, and pain on the outer side of the foot or ankle. You may also struggle to bear weight or walk on it.
Ankle Injury Treatment
Ankle sprain treatment also requires the RICE method, or rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If you follow the method, recovery can be as quick as one to three weeks. More severe sprains can take around four weeks to heal.
However, you need medical attention if you have a severe sprain or suspect a snowboarder’s ankle. If you experience persistent symptoms, they may do a different type of scan, such as a CT scan, to rule out a fracture.
If you get treatment early, it reduces the chance of long-term complications. Treatment will depend on how large and displaced the fracture is. Minor fractures will involve a cast and crutches for four to six weeks.
More severe injuries may require surgery to hold the fracture in place. You will also not be able to bear weight on the injury and work on strengthening the area during recovery.
How To Prevent Ankle Injury
Using harder boots can help hold your feet in position and protect your ankles. Also, take time to warm up with stretches before snowboarding. It protects not only your ankles but your whole body from injury.
Also, take care when performing aerial stunts. Be mindful of your landing technique and the landing zone you pick.
5. Elbow Injury
Elbow injury is another common upper-limb injury in snowboarding. Elbow dislocation happens when you fall or directly impact the joint, like a wrist injury. It can lead to partial or complete separation.
Elbow fracture occurs when the bone cracks. It can be above (supracondylar), below (condylar), or inside the elbow. It can also be at the growth plate, or you can have fracture dislocations.
Forearm injuries can also occur along with elbow injuries, depending on the nature of the injury. A typical fracture to the forearm is an ulna fracture.
Symptoms of an elbow injury include a reduced functionality to the wrist and elbow. It can also cause deformity, swelling, and tenderness.
Pain can be mild to severe and radiate into the wrist, hand, and forearm. Usually, you will notice that pain increases if you bear weight on your arm when you grip an object or attempt to move your arm.
Recovery time depends on how fast you seek treatment and the severity of your elbow injury. Sprains can take around two weeks, and fractures six weeks to heal.
Elbow Injury Treatment
It is best to seek medical attention to determine the type of elbow injury you have. A doctor will complete X-Rays to determine the extent of the break and what treatment you need.
Treatments without surgery include closed reduction, casts, and splints. Closed reduction is the manipulation of the bones without surgery, and it can involve a local anesthetic. You use a splint when there is a lot of swelling, and a cast helps the bones heal in the right place without further damage to the injury.
And like with all the common snowboarding injuries, it helps strengthen the joint as part of your therapy, which you can do with physical therapy.
How To Prevent Elbow Injury
You can prevent elbow and wrist injury with guards. Elbow guards will lessen the blow to elbow joints and reduce the risk of injury. Also, keep your arms close to your body during jumps and falls.
Avoid All Common Snowboarding Injuries
There are specific steps you can take to avoid common snowboarding injuries. But there are also general steps you can take to avoid all the common snowboarding injuries.
The first is to have patience as a beginning snowboarder. It is incredible to find a new sport you love, but it will also humble you if you move too fast. Take the time to learn the proper technique with classes if you can, to lessen the risk of falling and injury if you do fall, as you will know how to fall correctly.
Also, be sure to look after yourself. When you go on the slopes, make sure you are hydrated, well-fed, and warmed up with stretches. You want the energy, flexibility, and focus to be able to carry out snowboarding moves.
You can also look after yourself by checking and wearing the right gear. Make sure your feet are fixed in place, you are warm, and wear safety gear.
Treatment for Snowboarding Injuries
If you do experience one of the common snowboarding injuries, get treatment! The problem will only worsen if you ignore it and go back to the slopes too soon. It will be more costly to your finances and your health.
Treatment outcomes are most promising when you seek treatment early. Even the most experienced snowboarders get them, and taking the time to address it will mean you can return to snowboarding healthy, safely, and quickly.
Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas (HSST) are hand and wrist specialists who treat many conditions relating to hands, wrists, and elbows. Contact us today to learn how we can support you.