How to Prevent Snowboarding Injuries

Snowboarder riding down slope lined with trees

Cavan Images / Getty Images

When you're heading to the mountain with your snowboard, you want to come back exhilarated, not with an injury. You don't want to be stuck drinking cocoa by the fire as your friends have all of the fun on the slopes. What causes snowboarding injuries and what can you do to prevent them?

While similar in many ways, skiing and snowboarding do have their differences. These sports vary greatly when it comes to the type of injury typically sustained by participants. Conditioning for skiing requires speed, strength, balance, and flexibility. Snowboarding requires similar conditioning, however, the way the body moves in each sport is fundamentally different. This difference tends to result in very different injuries in each sport.

Common Snowboarding Injuries

First, let's look at skiing to contrast with snowboarding. Skiing tends to result in more knee injuries. The typical skiing injury involves torque-type injuries to the knees and lower extremities. This twisting of the upper leg one way, while the lower leg rotates the opposite way, often results in tears to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

In snowboarding, both feet are strapped onto the same board and always point the same direction. This protects the knees from any twisting. However, the upper extremity is in the position to take the force of a fall. When snowboarders fall, they land on their hands, shoulders, rear-ends, or heads. The most typical snowboarding injury is a wrist fracture. There are also wrist sprains and elbow contusions and dislocations. The shoulder takes a beating with contusions and rotator cuff injuries. Broken collarbones, concussions, and other head and neck injuries are common as well.

Rotator cuff injuries in the shoulder are usually treated more conservatively with strengthening programs, anti-inflammatory medications for contusions and swelling, and rest for the general healing process. Intermittent application of ice (10 minutes three or four times a day) can be helpful in reducing pain, swelling, and inflammation. If a snowboarder attempts dangerous maneuvers — in the trees, going off jumps, and doing tricks — helmets are worth considering.

Tips for Preventing Snowboarding Injuries

Snowboarders, especially those just starting out, would be wise to stock up on some safety gear. Wrist and elbow guards can ease the force of falls on the joints of the upper body. Knee pads help prevent contusions, a pad for the tailbone is also a good idea, as new snowboarders spend a lot of time on their backside. To protect the shoulder from falls, it isn't a bad idea to learn a bit about its anatomy and function.

Finally, although both skiing and snowboarding happen in the snow on a mountain, they are very different in terms of technique. Keep in mind that just because you are a good skier, you may be a novice on a snowboard. Taking a lesson from a qualified instructor or an experienced snowboarder is a good idea for the beginner snowboarder. It will make your time on the mountain much more enjoyable.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • Kathleen A Dunn. What Are the Health Hazards of Snowboarding? West J Med. 2001 Feb; 174(2): 128–130.