Snowboarding is often seen as skiing’s younger and cooler number! It began in 1965 just over fifty years after the invention of downhill skiing. Engineer Sherman Poppen fastened two skis together to create a "snurfer" toy for his daughters and attached a rope to one end so he would have some control as they stood on the board and glided downhill.
Snowboarding was soon taken up and developed by skateboarding and winter sport enthusiasts. It gained real traction in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, it is a popular winter sport for people of all ages, a major worldwide player, and a recognised Olympic sport. However, as this sport involves hurtling down snowy slopes on a board, it does carry risks and accidents do occur.
According to a study in the Journal of Sport and Health Science 2022, the injury rate for snowboarding is 3.9 per 1,000 visits.1
In general, snowboarders tend to incur more upper-body injuries, with wrist injuries being the most common. This is different from skiing injuries which are notoriously leg injuries, especially the knees.
According to Statistica, during the 2019/2020 season in France, 25 percent of snowboarders who had an injury broke their wrist. More than half of the injuries were incurred on arms, shoulders, and hands.2
The reason why snowboarder incur more upper body injuries is because they have both feet fixed to a single board and they use their arms for balance. Therefore, they fall forward or backward and try to break this with an outstretched arm. This can cause hyperextension of the wrist joint and a stretch or tear to the ligaments within the wrist.
In this Statistica study, the distribution of injury diagnoses among snowboarders in France during the 2019/2020 season was:
· Wrist fracture – 25%
· Shoulder injury – 19%
· Other upper extremity injury – 14%
· Lesion of the spine, thorax, pelvis – 10%
· Other lower extremity injury – 6%
· Knee sprain – 6%
· Other knee injury 4%
· Ankle sprain – 4%
· Head trauma – 3.7%
· Head wounds – 1.2%
What causes common snowboarding injuries?
Some things you more likely to sustain a snowboarding injury. These include:
· Snowboarding when tired
· Using improper/badly fitting equipment
· Snowboarding at a higher level than you are ready for
· Not paying attention to others on the slopes.
7 tips to prevent snowboarding injuries
There are some measures you can take to minimise your risk of injury when snowboarding. These include:
· Wear wrist guards – they can spread impact shocks and help prevent broken bones. According to an article in The American Journal of Epidemiology, the studies conducted on the relation between wrist guard use and wrist injuries in snowboarders indicated that these devices reduce the risk of wrist and forearm injuries between 52 percent and 87 percent.3
· Learn to fall correctly - beginners are at the highest risk of injury so it’s important to learn this from the outset. Your snowboard school should teach you this. It is recommended that you tuck and roll so your upper body takes the brunt of the fall. This makes it less likely to sustain a ligament tear or fracture.
· Wear a well-maintained and well-fitted helmet – these days helmets are light and provide great protection against the dreaded "heel edge catch".
· Wear "impact shorts" – they look like padded underwear and help snowboarders absorb falls and give an extra layer of warmth on cold chairlifts.
· Don’t snowboard when you’re tired.
· Be aware of changing weather and snow conditions and other piste users.
· Get lessons - if you’re a beginner lessons will set you up with the basic skills and advice.