Snowboarding is a fun recreational activity that combines surfing and downhill skiing. It has grown in popularity since its invention in the mid 1960s. Because it’s now a mainstream activity, injuries associated with snowboarding have increased.
Path to improved health
Before setting out to snowboard, take some time to familiarize yourself with the equipment and the physical requirements of the sport.
What do I need to know before I start snowboarding?
Here are some tips from members of the U.S. Snowboard Team, as well as from recreational snowboarders:
- Get in shape first. A regular general fitness program will make snowboarding easier and help protect you from injury.
- Use the right equipment. Buy or rent good snowboarding boots, an all-purpose snowboard, a helmet, and wrist guards.
- Pick the right time and place to learn. Take lessons from a trained instructor in good weather (when there is good visibility and it’s not too cold). Pick a skiing area that allows snowboarders. Use slopes that are not crowded and have packed snow. Avoid icy slopes.
How can I protect myself from injury?
Most falls in snowboarding are on the hands, buttocks, and head and cause only bruises and soreness. You can do a few things to reduce your chance of getting injured:
- Protect your wrists. Most snowboard injuries are to the wrists. Wear wrist guards made for snowboarding or in-line skating. Don’t break your fall with your open hands. Hold your hands in closed fists while you snowboard so you won’t be tempted to break your fall with an open hand. Try to roll into a fall, spreading the force of the fall over your body instead of taking all the force in one place.
- Protect your head. Though you probably won’t hit your head first, the back of your head may hit the ground at the end of a fall if you land on your buttocks. These head injuries usually aren’t serious, but you can end up with quite a headache. Wear a helmet when learning, racing, and snowboarding on unmarked trails.
What do I need to know about equipment?
- Boots. Most snowboarders recommend soft snowboarding boots to start. It’s not as easy to balance or to get up after a fall in hard boots. Moonboots and hiking boots are dangerous. Wearing them puts you at high risk of broken bones and ankle injuries.
- Snowboard. Start with an all-purpose snowboard. Later, if you are ready to race or do tricks, you can try a specialty board. Specialty boards are harder to turn and balance on.
- Protective equipment. Always wear wrist guards made for snowboarders or in-line skaters. Most racers and professional snowboarders wear helmets, wrist guards, arm guards, and shin guards, as well as customized protective gear.
- Ski poles. You may want to use ski poles at first, while you learn how to snowboard. Some teachers believe this is a good way for beginners to avoid wrist injuries. Learn how to use ski poles from a teacher who knows this technique, because snowboards are not designed to be used with ski poles.
Things to consider
The injury rate for snowboarders and skiers is about the same, according to medical research published by the National Institutes of Health. Snowboarders are more likely to injure their upper body than are skiers. Wrist fractures (breaks) are one of the most common injuries for snowboarders.
The most serious snowboarding injuries involve collisions with trees or with another snowboarder or skier.
When to see a doctor
You are likely to suffer a few bumps and bruises while snowboarding, especially if you are a beginner. New snowboarders are injured more often than those who are more experienced.
Contact your doctor if:
- You injure your head or neck.
- If you lost consciousness (passed out) after hitting your head or falling.
- You believe you have dislocated your shoulder or elbow.
- You may have fractured your thumb, wrist, or arm.
- You have back pain that doesn’t go away after a few days or that prevents you from normal, everyday activities.
Questions for your doctor
- Am I healthy enough to snowboard?
- Should I take medicine before I snowboard?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.