• Dr. Terrell Joseph

A Guide To Skier and Snowboarder Injuries

The American Journal of Sports Medicine published a study recently on snowboard injuries vs. skier injuries. Much of the data published in the study is synonymous with what we see in our offices.

So Who Gets Injured More?

Snowboarders have a slightly higher rate of injury than skiers.  The most common type of injury for snowboarders is wrist injuries; while for skiers, it’s an ACL sprain.

Ski and Snowboarder Injuries - By The Numbers

Here is the stats from study by The American Journal of Sports Medicine (January 20, 2012). Drum roll, please:

  • Wrist injuries account for 28% of all snowboard injuries and only 3% of skiing injuries.

  • ACL injuries compose less than 2% of all snowboard injuries and 17% of skiing injuries.

Who Is At Risk For Snowboarding Injuries?

The study found the highest rate of injury among young, inexperienced, female snowboarders.

When it comes to snowboard wrist injuries, the most common scenario we see is the beginner snowboarder who is just learning the sport who fractures the wrist.

In fact, 25% of all wrist surgeries involve snowboarders in their first three days on the mountain.  So people learning to snowboard should always use wrist guards. It can help prevent a visit to the emergency room.

Hey Skiers, Watch Out For Knee Injuries!

The most common injury among skiers is no question, to the knees. When you rotate and torque your knee at the same time, the force is transferred through the ski and the binding, through the stiff boot.

The next “mobile” joint is the knee, thus subject to injury. Meniscal tears are common when this happens; “sitting in the back seat” in combination with the rotary torque causes the ACL to ‘pop’ which is often audible to the patient as the ligament tears.

Additional Factors Leading To Skier and Snowboarder Injuries

Definitely, we see more injuries at the end of the day when protective muscles are tired and less quick to respond. Faulty equipment is still a periodic problem but less and less common as the predictability and quality of the gear improves.

Dehydration is common in the mountains and causes your energy to decrease, which could potentially result in injury.

The "Weekend Warrior" is At Risk

The phenomenon of the “weekend warrior”, who gets more easily fatigued versus the well-conditioned athlete, is a common factor in injuries at the end of the day.

Furthermore, we see injuries in patients who ski or snowboard beyond their ability.

How To Prevent Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries

Let's talk about keeping you healthy. Preventing injuries varies on your experience. Beginners, especially snowboarders, have to pad up. The “whiplash” of a beginner snowboard injury is fast and unpredictable, with common head injuries as you fall back. Wearing a helmet and wrist guards will keep you out of the hospital.

Stretching also can help prevent muscle tears, tendon tears and overuse-type injuries associated with using muscles uncommonly stressed. These tendons and muscles are routinely tested while skiing and snowboarding especially among the weekend warriors or the visitors who ski once a year.

Will A Brace Help Prevent Knee Injuries?

Studies have convincingly shown if you apply enough physics to a knee, no external brace will effectively “prevent” a ligament injury.

But it definitely provides a sense of feedback to your brain so that it knows where your knee is in space. This alone may provide a sense of protective sensibility as patients regularly report they have more confidence and security while skiing with a brace.d

Have Fun & Stay Safe

In conclusion, skiing and snowboarding is a recreational sport and continues to statistically remain a relatively safe sport as evidenced by the huge numbers of people who participate.

Staying reasonably fit, having an awareness of others around you, staying in control of your body, and not regularly “trying things” (like leaving the earth without a plan), makes skiing and snowboarding a rewarding lifetime sport that keeps you fit, active and healthy.

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Dr. Terrell Joseph

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181 West Meadow Drive 
Suite 2700
Vail, CO 81657 

Tel: 970-476-7220

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