Most snowboarding injuries occur traumatically, usually from a fall or due to a collision with another snowboarder or stationary object. In snowboarding, because both feet are strapped in, there tends to be less traumatic knee injuries than skiing (which involves greater twisting of the knees) and a significantly greater percentage of upper body injuries. Traumatic snowboarding injuries often occur when a snowboarder falls forwards or backwards onto their wrists and hands or backside, or, from other traumatic incidents involving collisions or falls onto the shoulders, elbows, head or neck. These injuries can include fractures or contusions, joint sprains or dislocations, ligament sprains or concussion with some conditions being quite serious.
Most Common Snowboarding Injuries
Most Common Snowboarding Injuries
Wrist & Hand
A break in one of the wrist bones located on the thumb side of the wrist (scaphoid – figure 1 & 1a) usually due to a fall onto an outstretched hand (particularly in icy conditions where a fall onto a hard surface is unforgiving). Associated with severe pain at the time of injury that may settle to an ache, usually located on the thumb side of the wrist. Swelling, tenderness on firmly touching the affected region of the bone and markedly reduced wrist function are also present. Pain typically worsens when gripping or upon weight bearing through the affected wrist (such as pushing off the chair lift).
Figure 1 – Scaphoid Anatomy
Figure 1a – Scaphoid and Wrist Anatomy
Elbow & Forearm
A break in the radius or ulna bone (figure 2) usually due to a fall onto an outstretched hand. Associated with severe pain usually located in the forearm that may radiate into the wrist, hand, elbow or upper arm, in addition to swelling, tenderness on firmly touching the affected region of the bone, markedly reduced wrist and elbow function and sometimes bony deformity. Pain typically worsens with gripping activities or upon weight bearing through the affected wrist.
Figure 2 – Radius and Ulna Anatomy
A break in the collar bone of the shoulder (clavicle – figure 3) usually due to a fall onto the point of the shoulder or outstretched arm, or, from a forceful direct impact to the clavicle. Associated with severe shoulder pain, tenderness on firmly touching the affected region of the bone and sometimes swelling or a bony deformity.
Figure 3 – Collar Bone Anatomy
Head & Neck
Tearing of connective tissue surrounding a disc in the neck with subsequent bulging of disc material (figure 4). Typically as a result of a fall onto the head or neck (often with the head in a bent or twisted position). May cause neck pain centrally or on one or both sides of the neck, with or without symptoms radiating into the upper back, shoulder, upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist or hand or headache. Pain may increase on firmly touching the affected level of the spine and there is often associated muscle spasm and restriction of spinal movement. Occasionally there may be no neck pain, with only symptoms down the affected arm or only headache. Pins and needles or numbness are occasionally present in the affected arm or hand. Symptoms often increase during with repetitive or prolonged slouching, bending forwards of the neck, shoulders forwards movements, lifting, sneezing, neck rotation or side bending movements and are often worse first thing in the morning.
Figure 4 – Neck Anatomy
Tearing of the medial collateral ligament of the knee (MCL – Figure 5) typically following a valgus force (Figure 6) (such as when dismounting from the chair lift with only one foot in the snowboard and a collision or fall occurs). Often associated with a snap or tearing sensation at the time of injury. Associated with pain on firmly touching the MCL and often swelling. Occasionally associated with knee instability or giving way of the knee.
Figure 5 – Anatomy of a MCL Tear
Figure 6 – Valgus force (often involved in a MCL tear)
Damage to cartilage or bone located at the top of the talus bone (figure 7), usually due to compressive forces such as landing from a jump, a collision or fall. In non-snowboarding injuries they often occur in association with a rolled ankle. Symptoms may increase when landing from a jump, during weight bearing activities, such as excessive walking or running (especially up hills or on uneven surfaces) or during hopping, jumping or twisting. Pain may also increase on firmly touching the region of the talus bone, often at the front of the ankle (figure 8).
Figure 7 – Bones of the ankle
Figure 8 – Talus Region (May be tender to firmly touch in patients with an Osteochondral Lesion of the Talar Dome).
Damage to connective tissue of the sacroiliac joint, often as a result of a forceful fall or repetitive falls onto the tail bone whilst snowboarding. Causes one sided lower back pain below the upper aspect of the pelvis. Pain may radiate into the buttock and occasionally, the groin or outer aspect of the front of the thigh. Pain often increases on firmly touching the affected joint (figure 9).
Figure 9 – The Sacroiliac Joints
More Most Common Snowboarding Injuries
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Contributing Factors to Snowboarding Injuries
A number of factors may contribute to the incidence or development of snowboarding injuries, including:
- Risk taking
- Crowded runs
- Poor snowboarding conditions (visibility, terrain, weather, snow quality etc)
- Poor quality equipment
- Poorly fitted equipment
- Improperly adjusted bindings
- Inappropriate clothing
- Inappropriate (or a lack of) correctly fitted safety equipment (e.g. crash helmets, wrist guards, protective eyewear etc).
- Being unfamiliar with or failing to adhere to the ‘Ski Slope Rules’
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Injury Prevention Tips for Snowboarding Injuries
- Warm Up & Cool Down properly
- Make sure you are ‘Fit to Snowboard’ (check out our Core, Gluteal, Hamstring, Quads & Balance Exercises)
- Maintain a healthy body weight to minimise the load on your knees
- Take a lesson to improve your technique
- Snowboard to your own ability level and on appropriate terrain for your level of experience
- Snowboard appropriately to the conditions
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The following physiotherapy products are commonly prescribed to patients by physiotherapists to assist in the rehabilitation and prevention of snowboarding injuries:
- Ice Packs and Heat Packs
- Knee Braces
- Wrist Braces
- Sports Tape
- Swiss Balls (for core stability exercises)
- Foam Rollers (for self massage)
- Massage Balls (for self massage)
- McKenzie Treat Your Own Back Books
- McKenzie Treat Your Own Neck Books
To purchase physiotherapy products to assist with snowboarding injuries click on one of the above links or visit the PhysioAdvisor Shop.
Find a physiotherapist in your local area who can treat snowboarding injuries.
Become a PhysioAdvisor Member and gain full access to our complete physiotherapy and sports injury information database. Fore more details see Become a Member.
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