Snowboarding carries a slightly higher risk of injury than alpine skiing - between 3-6 injuries per thousand boarder days (compared to 2-3 injuries per thousand days for alpine skiing). The risk varies with experience as well - the highest risk group being beginner snowboarders (especially those on their very first day). The risk becomes lower for those intermediate riders but then climbs again amongst experienced boarders - presumably because they are boarding faster and attempting jumps and tricks. The most common type of injuries seen with snowboarders are upper extremity injuries, specifically, wrist fractures, shoulder dislocations and AC joint separations. Here are some practical tips to help reduce the risk of an upper extremity snowboarding injury:
· Take a lesson: Most snowboarders don't take professional lessons, but learn from friends or are self- taught. Poor technique and bad habits increase your chances of falls and injury. Play it safe and pay for a few lessons before hitting the slope.
· Wear protective gear: It is a natural response to put out your hand to break a fall and as a result the wrist can be broken. Wearing wrist guards can help reduce possible wrist injuries in a fall.
· Take a break: The vast majority of injuries happen at specific times of day; just before lunch or the last run of the day when fatigue kicks in. When you are tired, mistakes happen – edges get caught and injuries occur. Pacing your-self, taking a break and not attempting the hardest run at the end of the day all help reduce the risk of injury.
· Get the right equipment: Damaged or inappropriate equipment may contribute directly to an injury or to the severity of one. Make sure the board is the right size and ability level for you. A beginner using an advanced level board which they are not yet competent to control could lead to trouble!
· Learn how to fall: When you are a beginner, falling is an unfortunate part of the learning process. Forward falls commonly result in shoulder-girdle injuries; falls backward more commonly produce wrist fractures, spinal injuries and head injuries. Common guidelines which may help minimize injury risk are to make a fist - this prevents fingers splaying and wrists hyperextending; roll onto your forearms and knees if you fall forwards, and roll onto your bottom – not your hands if you fall backwards.
· Pre-hab: It is a good idea to make sure you are physically fit before you hit the slopes. One of the main reasons people get injured while snowboarding is that they don't have the physical ability for the sport. Focusing on endurance, core strength and flexibility are all important aspects of prehabilitation. Strengthening the forearm and shoulder muscles may allow these joints to within greater force, preventing injuries from occurring.
· Ride Goofy: One study looking at almost 2000 injured riders discovered over 90% of those injured were in a regular stance when they injured themselves.