Bayonne physical therapists snowboarding

Our Bayonne physical therapists break down the most common snowboarding injuries and what you can do to prevent them

by ggargiulo, December 20, 2017

Once the winter weather eventually drops into uncomfortable territory and the snow starts piling up to a point where your front lawn is long gone, there is small salvation for a select few. For all the skiers and snowboarders out there, cold weather and lots of snow isn’t just an inconvenient nuisance, but signs of an opportunity to head to the mountains in search of some fresh tracks. But if you have a kid that snowboards, it might also mean constant worry that they will get injured on the slopes. Fortunately, our Bayonne physical therapists have you covered with this guide intended to reduce the number of snowboarding injuries this season.

Although snowboarding is similar to skiing in that it’s also an extreme winter sport that takes place on snow-covered mountains, the two are actually quite different when it comes down to the body mechanics used. Skiers have the ability to navigate each ski independently with their bodies usually facing forward down the mountain, while snowboarders are firmly attached to one single board and make their descent with their bodies facing sideways. As a result, the common injuries are different in both sports. (For more information on common skiing injuries, click here for an earlier blog.)

Both sports actually have similar injury rates, but compared to skiing, snowboarding injuries usually involve the upper extremities (e.g. the wrist and shoulders) and the ankle. The primary reason for this is that snowboarders can’t step out of a leg to recover from a potential hazard or fall, which often causes them to outstretch their hand(s) to break their landing. This is why wrist injuries such as sprains and fractures are by far the most common injuries snowboarders suffer, as some studies estimate that about 100,000 wrist fractures occur in the U.S. each year from snowboarding.

Ankle injuries, including sprains and “snowboarder’s ankle,” also occur frequently due to the increased pressure placed on the ankles and calves while snowboarding. Knee injuries are less common and less severe than they are in skiing and usually occur from collisions, while shoulder and head injuries may also be seen from time to time.

The majority of injuries occur in beginner snowboarders, with approximately 25% of all injuries taking place during a snowboarder’s first experience on the slopes, and almost half occurring during their first season. This is mainly due to the fact that they haven’t figured out how to maintain a stable stance on the board yet, and are therefore more likely to lose their balance and fall. Children just getting started are at a higher risk for injury as well, and this is why important to monitor them to and instruct them on how to snowboard safely to reduce their risk for injury.

Teaching your young snowboarder(s) the fundamentals and ensuring that they stick to beginner runs as they figure out how to properly move their bodies may not guarantee that they won’t get injured, but it will certainly reduce the likelihood. Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

5 snowboarding safety tips from our Bayonne physical therapists

  • 1) Teach your child to fall on their elbows rather than their hands/wrists; make sure they keep their hands in a closed fist position, and if it seems like they may fall, tell them to tuck their arms in and point their elbows out to withstand its force
  • 2) Wrist and elbow guards can also be very helpful for beginners
  • 3) If your child is a beginner, make sure they are using soft boots and holding off on hard boots until they have progressed significantly
  • 4) Ensure that they are following the code of conduct on the mountain at all times: this means staying in control, stopping in safe places on the side of each run, looking both ways when merging, allowing skiers and snowboarders in front of them to have the right of way, and obeying all signs and markers
  • 5) Consider teaching them to work on their balance, core strength and leg strength throughout the season, which can improve snowboarding performance

Skiing and snowboarding may involve some risks, but this shouldn’t be a reason to hold yourself or your child back from hitting the slopes. Focusing on fundamentals and adhering to safety recommendations are the best ways to increase your chances of having a great time in the mountains this season while lowering the risk of injury for you and your children. If an injury does occur, though, our Bayonne physical therapists are here to diagnose the problem and create a personalized treatment program that will get you back out there soon. Contact Strulowitz & Gargiulo Physical Therapy at 201-792-3840 to schedule an appointment at our flagship Jersey City clinic, the Jersey City Medical Center Outpatient Therapy Department, our Bayonne office or at Clara Maas Medical Center in Belleville, NJ, or click here for more information on snowboarding safety.