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Helpful Rehab Hints


Snowboarders Seek Greater Thrills and Take Greater Risks

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Once the exclusive territory of teenage daredevils, snowboarding is now a mainstream sport as well as a booming industry. Snowboarders of all ages account for about 30 percent of all skiing lift tickets and season passes sold in the United States, making snowboarding the fastest-growing winter sport. However, as the popularity of snowboarding increases, so does the potential for injuries.

Spreading the Risk

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), when it comes to accidents, snowboarding doesn’t discriminate. Both beginner and advanced snowboarders can find themselves at risk, although their injuries usually differ.

The greatest danger for skilled riders is landing incorrectly. "The younger but more experienced generation wants to try the bigger jumps," comments Dean Walker, PT, a physical therapist at Durango Sports Club Physical Therapy in Durango, Colorado. "If they land wrong, their bodies can’t sustain the force of the impact. There’s also a fairly high incidence of head injuries with more advanced riders — who tend to be a little fearless — boarding through back woods and hitting trees," he added.

The accident profile is different for beginners. In snowboarding, the feet are strapped to the board in non-release bindings, causing less-experienced participants to fall over when they catch the front or back edge of the board. Snowboarding is a balancing act. According to Walker, "Because of the attachment of the body to the bindings, you can’t prevent a fall by adjusting your legs."

Snowboarding injuries are mixed between trunk injuries and those to the upper and lower extremities — most commonly to the wrist, shoulder and knee. "One well-known injury that is unique to snowboarding — called snowboarder’s fracture — is a fracture of the talus, a bone in the middle of the ankle joint, that occurs when the rider’s toes are pushed suddenly upward during a fall," said Walker. The most common injuries among advanced snowboarders, in addition to head trauma, are fractures of the tibia and fibula, the long bones in the lower leg.

Accidents Are Preventable

APTA recommends a regimen of stretching and strengthening to prevent injury and promote maximum enjoyment. According to Walker, "A good overall stretch, before and after the slopes, is especially important in snowboarding, which entails a lot more freedom of movement than skiing. Riders are reaching around in a lot of different directions, so good flexibility is important."


Rotation — Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and arms stretched out in front of you. Try to look behind you, twist your trunk as far as you can. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat in the opposite direction.

Flexion — Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Squat all the way down and wrap your arms around your bent legs. Look down and hold for 30 seconds.

Extension — Kneel on the ground and grab your heels with both hands. Look up towards the sky and push your stomach forward as far as you can. Hold for 30 seconds.

Strengthening both the upper and lower body, another critical component of snowboarding safety, is best accomplished on a year-round basis. A stronger, more flexible body will tolerate a fall better. "The underlying message is that snowboarding safety has to entail a lifestyle commitment," Walker continued. "Maintaining the proper fitness level is essential and ‘surfers’ need to incorporate it naturally into their fitness routines."

Another way to prevent injuries by using protective gear. Walker recommends that snowboarders wear wrist guards and kneepads. Additionally, APTA recommends that snowboarders wear a protective helmet, as most fatal injuries are head injuries. According to Walker, "A well-designed and properly fitting helmet will definitely decrease the likelihood of a head injury because it absorbs and spreads the force of impact over a larger surface."

For more information on preventing hand, wrist, and elbow injuries or foot and ankle injuries, send a self-addressed stamped envelope requesting "Hand, Wrist & Elbow" and/or "Foot and Ankle" to American Physical Therapy Association, PO Box 37257, Washington, D.C. 20013.

The American Physical Therapy Association is a national professional organization representing more than 65,000 members. Its goal is to foster improvements in physical therapy practice, education, and research.