Snowboard Safely

Take precautions with this popular sport

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SUNDAY, Dec. 8, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Snowboarding is the fastest-growing winter sport in the United States. More than 3.4 million Americans snowboard, and they account for 20 percent of visitors to American ski resorts.

However, like many other fun, popular sports, snowboarding does have certain risks. To minimize those dangers, the Medical College of Wisconsin offers some safety advice.

Beginning snowboarders are most at risk of injury, even though they don't try the kind of difficult maneuvers done by advanced boarders. Nearly 25 percent of injuries occur during a snowboarder's first experience, and nearly half of injuries happen in the first season of snowboarding.

The upper extremities and ankles are most likely to be injured while snowboarding, compared to the knees in downhill skiing. Wrist injuries account for about 23 percent of snowboarding injuries, ankle injuries account for 16.7 percent, and knee injuries, 16.3 percent. Other snowboard injuries include: head injuries, 9.2 percent; shoulder injuries, 8.3 percent; trunk injuries, 7.8 percent; and elbow injuries, 4.4 percent.

Wrist fractures account for about half of all snowboarding fractures. About half of all snowboarding ankle injuries are fractures.

Life-threatening snowboarding accidents are rare and most often involve collisions with trees.

Here are some tips on how to prevent snowboarding injuries:

  • Make sure you're in shape. A regular fitness program will make it easier for you while you're snowboarding and will help prevent injuries.

  • Use the right equipment, including the proper kind of snowboarding boots. Beginner snowboarders should have soft snowboarding boots and an all-purpose snowboard.

  • Take lessons from a trained instructor in good weather.

  • Wear wrist guards, especially if you're a novice snowboarder. If you don't have wrist guards, keep your hands in a closed fist position. That will prevent you from falling on a hyperextended wrist.

  • Consider using ski poles, especially if you're a beginner who is more likely to fall.

  • Wear a helmet. For many beginner snowboarders, the back of the head is a frequent impact area in falls.

  • Go to a skiing area that allows snowboards. Stay on slopes that have packed snow (avoid icy slopes) and are not crowded.

More information

Here's more about snowboarding safety.

SOURCE: Medical College of Wisconsin, news release, December 2002

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