Snowboard Safety: Injury Prevention and Treatment
By Jeremy Hier
Snowboarding is one of the most popular snow sports and like any other physical activity, it is susceptible to injury. However if the right precautions are taken and the correct protective gear is worn, the body can be protected from any severe injury. Here are a few snowboarding safety tips dealing with common injuries, how to treat those injuries and what can be done to prevent them.
Common Snowboarding Injuries
Snowboarding injuries occur mostly in the upper extremities of the body and the ankle, the most common being sprains followed by fractures and contusions. Upper body injuries are common as snowboarders usually fall forwards or backwards. With a forward fall, snowboarders will protect themselves by stretching their arms outwards to stop themselves from falling. This leads to sprained wrists, wrist fractures, elbow, shoulder and head injuries. If a snowboarder falls backwards mild head as well as coccygeal injuries can occur such as bruising to the tailbone. When they fall snowboarders are advised to try and keep their arms tucked in and to roll with the fall therefore distributing the impact of the fall over a larger portion of their body. It is better to rather have body bruises than a fractured wrist!
Lower body injuries are rare and occur mostly in the ankle and knee area. This is due to the feet being strapped into the board and both feet pointing in the same direction, which localizes knee movement and prevents twisting. However, as the level of snowboarding expertise increases so does the risk of knee injury due to the frequency of aerial maneuvers and the use of hard boots. Aerial maneuvers also present more abdominal, chest, spine and head injuries. Ankle injuries are very common such as sprained and fractured ankles, also known as snowboarders ankle. Contusions are common on the head, face, chest, abdomen and pelvis, lacerations on the head and face and dislocations in the upper extremities. Severe head and spinal injuries have occurred when snowboarders have lost control of their board at high speed.
It is important to note that a fracture of the lateral process of the talus (LPT) can masquerade as an ankle sprain and is frequently undetected on plain x - rays. Misdiagnosis of this fracture may lead to severe degeneration of the joint, disability and pain.
How to Tell if Your Injury is Serious
There are various symptoms that suggest what type of injury you have and what should be done to heal it. Swelling is a definite sign of an injury and shouldnt be ignored. It usually occurs around a joint and causes pain and reduced range of motion. Tenderness will be found if you press the injured body part with your finger. Weakness in the injured area can occur as well as numbing and tingling, which are often related to nerve compression and should never be ignored as they may be signaling a serious injury.
How to Treat Any Sprain
If you have sprained your wrist, ankle or knee RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, Exercise) is the safest and easiest way for anyone to heal an injury. It is important to follow these steps, as swelling can cause pain and loss of motion which will limit the use of the muscle, resulting in the weakening, shortening and delayed healing of the injured limb. After following RICE it is advisable to visit a physician for a proper diagnosis of the injury.
You should rest the sprained limb for 24 48 hours post injury.
Ice should be used to reduce swelling and pain, and should not be applied for more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time. If you do not have ice on hand, you can use anything frozen such as a bag of frozen peas. Never apply heat to an injury as this will increase swelling!
There are various options for compression:
Elasticated tubular bandage (Tubigrip) which can be strapped either single or doubled over. This should not be worn too tight as it may lead to thrombosis.
Elevate the sprained limb horizontally to decrease swelling and discomfort.
As soon as symptoms allow gently exercise the injured limb.
Prevention and Protection
Snowboarding injuries can be prevented by following a number of safety precautions. A fitness programme is essential to train the body for the maneuverability needed for snowboarding. Taking a few snowboarding lessons and having a good instructor helps to minimize the number of injuries that occur, teaches you how to snowboard effectively and what gear must be worn for your safety. The most important of injury prevention is wearing the right protective equipment. There are different types of gear that are specifically designed to protect certain areas of the body.
Helmets are very important in preventing head injury as it is common for snowboarders to fall and injure their heads. There are different types of helmets from lightweight to heavyweight, with venting or no venting, with or without ear flaps, as well as different styles. It is important to choose a helmet that fits you snuggly, is comfortable and not too heavy.
There are three kinds of snowboarding boots that differ in the support they give to the ankle and foot. Soft boots are used by most snowboarders and offer sufficient stability and flexibility. Hard boots are usually worn by racers and provide ample ankle support. Hybrid boots have the support of hard boots with the comfort and maneuverability of soft boots. It is important to choose the right footwear for the particular snowboarding activity that you will undertake, i.e. beginner, racer, etc. as each of these boots place the body under different injury risks. Soft boots present twice the risk of ankle injury compared to hard boots due to their moderate ankle support, however hard boots present twice the risk of knee injury than soft boots because they offer less movement. Hiking boots must never be used as they can lead to serious injury. It is important to note that boots and bindings must be bought together as the choice of boots depends on what type of bindings you want to use such as step in bindings or strap bindings.
Wrist and Elbow guards
Wrist guards help support the wrist and are available in different styles for over and inside the glove as well as integrated into the glove. Wrist guards used for inline skating and skateboarding can also be used for snowboarding. Elbow guards help to protect the elbows from bruising and fractures.
Knee and tailbone pads
Knee pads help to protect the knees from bruising, and should be worn if you have weak knee caps. Tailbone pads help to protect the tailbone and should be worn with beginners, as they frequently fall backwards.
Padded jackets and pants
Padded jackets and pants help to prevent other parts of the body from bruising.
Goggles help to keep the snow and wind out of your eyes. They also protect the eyes from the harmful rays of the sun which are also reflected by the snow. If you are wearing a helmet and goggles make sure that the goggles fit comfortably with the helmet.
Follow these snowboard safety tips and you will have the ultimate pain free snowboarding experience!