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Snowboarding Injuries

What are Snowboarding Injuries?

A popular winter sport, snowboarding is known for its riders sweeping through skiing slopes and narrow half-pipe snow ramps. Injuries while snowboarding occur more frequently in the upper extremities and less frequently in the lower extremities, especially compared to traditional alpine skiing.

These injuries include but are not limited to the following areas:

  • Hands and wrists (dislocations, fractures, ligament sprains, and tears)
  • Elbows (fractures, dislocations, torn ligaments

Types of Snowboarding Injuries

Fractures and sprains are among the most common injuries for snowboarders.

Upper extremity injuries are more common than lower extremity injuries, most of them involving injuries and fractures of the wrist. Snowboarding injuries associated with Falling on an Outstretched Hand (FOOSH) include fractures of the distal radius, sprains of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb and scaphoid fractures.

Injuries involving the elbow, including fractures and dislocations, occur mostly in younger snowboarders. Physical fractures occur in children and careful examination for points of maximal tenderness to palpation is paramount.

The evolution of design in snowboard boots and bindings have lessened the number of lower extremity injuries.

Some of the most common reasons for snowboarding injuries include:

  • Fatigue (snowboarding without adequate rest).
  • Snowboarding at a higher skill level than one is ready for.
  • Improper equipment.
  • Dehydration.

Characteristics and Clinical Presentation of Snowboarding Injuries

Sprains and fractures to the wrist remain the most common form of snowboarding injury. Physeal fractures of the distal radius are more common among younger snowboarders than ligamentous injuries because the cartilaginous growth plate is softer than the neighboring ligaments. For example, nondisplaced physeal injuries may not be apparent radiographically because the physis resembles a fracture in some ways on x-rays. Tenderness to palpation over the physis is highly suggestive. Signs and symptoms of the more common injuries include:

Wrist injuries:

  • Point tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Restricted motion
  • Bruising

Hand Injuries:

  • Point tenderness
  • Swelling and deformity
  • Pain
  • Restricted Motion
  • Bruising

For individuals who are suspected of having broken a bone while snowboarding, computed tomography or MR may detect and occur fracture. These may be useful to determine the fracture architecture and the degree of displacement and misalignment, particularly but not exclusively helpful for joint surface injuries. The MR may aid in ligament injury analysis.

Causes of Snowboarding Injuries

A high proportion of injured snowboarders are beginners who have an increased risk of injury to the wrist due to frequent falls. Distall radius and ulnar styloid, dorsal chips of the triquetrum, scaphoid, and lunate fractures are common after falls on an outstretched hand (FOOSH injuries). Experts are more likely to have complex wrist fracture-dislocations, which are often associated with high-performance stunts. This is sometimes referred to as seeking “hospital air.”

Many of the common snowboarding injuries can be avoided by proper warm-up and cool-down exercises, the use of appropriate safety gear, and keeping an eye on the terrain for other snowboarders, tree wells, rocks, drops, or holes.

Getting a Diagnosis for Snowboarding Injuries

It’s important to be seen by a highly experienced surgeon for these procedures, such as Dr. Jason and Mark Pruzansky of HandSport Surgery Institute. Depending on the nature of your injury during the physical evaluation process, further testing may be recommended on a case-by-case basis for a complete and accurate diagnosis and proper treatment plan specific to your injury. Some of these diagnostics include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and CAT scans.

Treatment Options for Snowboarding Injuries

We like to say that prevention is better than a cure, if at all possible. However, in the event of an accident, we have our patients undergo a physical evaluation. If it is determined that the patient will heal correctly without surgical intervention, post-injury management includes:

Rest

Rest helps your body to heal itself naturally following any major or minor injury. Adding undo stress while it attempts to repair itself can slow down this process and has the possibility of extending your healing period. Some cases benefit from splinting, wrapping, casting, or injury-specific bracing.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy helps to reduce deconditioning during your recovery, maximizes movement, strength, endurance, and coordination. Done properly rehab helps tissue remodeling. Later sport-specific exercises are added.

Conservative Treatments

We try to avoid surgery when possible, if possible. The human body is capable of repairing itself without outside intervention in many, non-serious injuries.

For uncomplicated injuries considered non-serious, or with the ability to heal without surgical intervention,  non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication or acetaminophen may be taken if tolerated without known allergy, side effects or drug interactions, which helps with painful inflammation and swelling. Additionally, rest, and bracing the afflicted area when applicable can be used to treat most minor snowboarding injuries. Elevation above the heart when practical is very helpful.

Surgical Treatments

Surgical treatment may be used for complete ligament tears or complex fractures. Splints, braces, and casts generally support the surgical repair. Some of these procedures may include:

  • Distal Radius Fracture Repair, often with Arthroscopic Assistance
  • Scaphoid Fractures and Nonunions Repair
  • Laceration Repair Surgery often with Microsurgery

Preventing an Injury while Snowboarding

Prevention is the most important step in maintaining safe and enjoyable snowboarding. This is especially important if you are returning to snowboarding after an injury. To reduce injury  the appropriate gear will contribute:

  • Wrist Guards: when falling, snowboarders instinctively use their hands to break their fall. Wrist guards offer a degree of protection for situations like this..

Prognosis for Snowboarding Injuries

After any injury, consider the RICE principles of rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The body requires time to heal and recover after an injury. After your injury has healed, you may require rehab for improving day-to-day life and sports performance.

If You Believe You Have a Snowboarding Injury, Contact HandSport Surgery Institute.

Please contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment with our talented team. People who have been hurt while snowboarding should be evaluated to try and prevent further injury and mobility issues.

If you have been injured, it’s important to be evaluated by a highly skilled professional. Call Drs. Mark and Jason Pruzansky at 212-249-8700 to schedule an appointment and obtain an accurate diagnosis.

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