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Snowboarding Can Slam Upper Body

Wrists, shoulders take a beating during falls

SUNDAY, Jan. 18, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Wrists and shoulders bear the brunt of the falls in snowboarding, and beginners are the most prone to injury.

The combination of fixed bindings and the fact that snowboarders ride sideways means they most often try to break their falls with their arms, injuring their wrists and shoulders.

When are snowboarders most likely to fall?

When they are first learning the sport, says Dr. David Halsey, an orthopedic surgeon in Hanover, N.H.

Unlike skiing, where risk increases as people become more proficient and ski faster, studies have shown that snowboarding is most dangerous during the first few days on the slopes, he says.

"Some studies say that the risk of injury in snowboarding is 20 percent in the first five days of starting the sport, which is very high," he says. "And injuries can be very bad fractures of the wrist, requiring casts, pins or screws and taking from 12 to 16 weeks to heal."

Shoulders, too, can be injured, especially when someone falls forward, throwing all the weight of the body on the shoulders and arms, he says.

However, as snowboarders become better, they fall less and their rates of injuries subside, so Halsey suggests a preemptive strike against snowboarding injuries.

"Good quality instruction is the most effective way to decrease the risk of serious injuries," he says.

He also strongly recommends helmets. Wrist guards are helpful, too, although they have to be specific to snowboarding.

"The ones used for Roller-blading don't have sufficient protection. You need ones that are sports-specific for snowboarding," he says.

More information

To learn more about snowboarding, the newest Olympic sport, you can visit the United States Ski and Snowboard Association.

SOURCES: David Halsey, M.D., associate clinical professor, orthopedic surgery, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, N.H.
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