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Snowboard Safety Secrets

Our Motto is ... No Injuries!

Are you thinking of trying snowboarding, but reluctant because you've heard that you'll be bruised after the painful edge-catching falls of the first three days? We hear this from skiers and potential snowboarders all the time... And I remember my first times out before I discovered the secrets of snowboard safety!

We know the secrets that can help keep you from getting hurt as you learn and ride.

Snowboarding Without Injuries

Since the vast majority of beginner and intermediate snowboard falls are either forward or backward, simply protecting your knees, butt, head and wrists will greatly help in preventing injury.

Snowboard Knee Protection

The first priority in protection is your knees, since this is a complicated joint that does not come with its own protection. Good knee pads made for snowboarding, skateboarding, or inline skating will allow you to rest on the snow comfortably, or fall on the snow more safely, also taking force off of your hands and wrists. The pads will also keep your knee joints warm and supple. Wear 
them under your pants.

Snowboard Tailbone Protection

Next in importance is protecting your butt and tailbone. Our posteriors do have various amounts of padding, but it can still hurt to fall on your backside. And a bruise on your tailbone is painful and slow to heal. Wearing skateboard or snowboard impact shorts will greatly reduce these bumps and bruises. If you are not sure you are ready to invest in snowboard padding, and can't borrow some, even bubble wrap stuffed down the back of your pants can be a bruise saver your first few days out.

Snowboard Helmets

Protecting your head with a good helmet is also important, especially after you are up and riding fast, or doing tricks. Helmet use is skyrocketing at mountains since helmets have become lightweight, vented, comfortable, and stylish. A helmet will also keep you warm all over in the bitter cold. Once you've gained confidence and speed snowboarding, those occasional backward falls can happen in a split second, completely without warning. My helmet has paid for itself a couple of times over each season in preventing head injury or bumps.

More about preventing snowboard injury - from the Mayo Clinic here.

Snowboard Wrist and Hand Protection

Q. I heard that wearing wrist guards for snowboarding merely transfers the force of a fall further up the arm and breaks the bones somewhere else..

A. This is an old chestnut that can finally be laid to rest! 
“The Colorado Snowboard Injury Survey showed that snowboarders wearing wrist guards were half as likely to injure their wrists as snowboarders not wearing guards.

(Below are excerpts from the article “Wrist Injuries in Snowboarders” by Dr Mike Langran. Read the whole article and find other interesting snowboard safety facts at:

broken wrist - photo courtesy of Dr Mike Langran's

“The wrist is the single commonest site of injury amongst snowboarders. It is important though; sustain a broken wrist and you won't be snowboarding for at least 6-8 weeks, if not longer (unless you're a real loon....) 

Is there any evidence that wrist guards reduce the chances of breaking your wrist?

The Colorado Snowboard Injury Survey showed that snowboarders wearing wrist guards were half as likely to injure their wrists as snowboarders not wearing guards.

What was really needed was a study where a group of snowboarders were taken and half (taken completely at random) were given guards and half were not. In addition, there must be no major differences between the two groups in terms of age, sex, ability etc. For guards to be truly effective, the number of wrist injuries would have to be significantly lower in the group wearing guards. This is called a randomized controlled trial and provides very strong evidence - one way or the other.

Well, we now have the benefit of not one but two such trials and they both fortunately reached the same conclusion! RØnning et al in Norway took 5029 snowboarders and gave wrist guards to one half of the group. They demonstrated a significant reduction in wrist injuries in the group wearing guards. Machold et al did the same in Austria, this time with a group of 721 boarders. 

There were no wrist injuries in the group wearing guards but 9 serious wrist injuries in the group not wearing guards. There is no escaping the significance of these two trials which really do provide conclusive proof that wearing guards protects against wrist injuries.

Nothing is more uncool than not being able to snowboard - which is the case if you break your wrist. Virtually without exception, every snowboarder I have treated in the last two years with a wrist fracture has said something along the lines of "...I'll definitely be getting some guards now...."

So I think you can see that I am very pro wrist guards! But I have my reasons - not the least of which is that I hate seeing so many young snowboarders with such painful injuries. I particularly hate seeing beginners injured because for snow sports to survive we have to encourage new people to take them up and an injury early on is unlikely to inspire someone to come back.

I personally think that guards should be a routine part of a beginner snowboard hire package. I am also working to make information available at each ski area to make snowboarders aware of wrist guards and what they can do. It will take time, but it has happened before when other equipment advances proved beneficial. Once people realize that they can reduce the risk of injury, hopefully we will continue to see more guards being worn on the slopes and less 
“dinner fork” wrists in our patrol and casualty rooms. Time will tell….”


Recommendations for wrist guards by Dr. Langan:

A new design from Medicins de Montagne in France is the Flexmeter - this is available as a stand alone wrist guard or as part of an integrated glove/guard system - click here for more details on Flexmeter.

Flexmeter is Winner of the Brand New  award at ISPO, the world's largest snowboard trade show in Munich, Germany.



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