Snow Falling on Fractures: Safer Snowboarding Achieved with Proper Equipment

Snow Falling on Fractures: Safer Snowboarding Achieved with Proper Equipment

Proliance Orthopedic Associates

The 2003/04 ski season was a busy one, with more than 50 million visits to the slopes according to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). Skiers aren’t the only ones recreating in winter wonderland. The NSAA also reports snowboarding accounts for nearly 31 percent of the 2003/04 total visits.

Snow is underway in many local mountains and 2004/05 may prove to be another popular winter sports season. The more you hit the slopes, the greater your risk of injury.

Snowboarding is a progressively popular sport and according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) it is the leading cause of winter sports injuries for people under age 20. The AAOS also cites the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, reporting nearly 100,000 snowboarding injuries were treated in hospitals and doctors’ offices in 2002.

“Wrist injuries are common with snowboarders but we also see a number of ankle injuries,” said Robert Veith, MD of the Foot & Ankle Center at Valley Orthopedic Associates (VOA).

The 2003/04 ski season was a busy one, with more than 50 million visits to the slopes according to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). Skiers aren’t the only ones recreating in winter wonderland. The NSAA also reports snowboarding accounts for nearly 31 percent of the 2003/04 total visits.

Snow is underway in many local mountains and 2004/05 may prove to be another popular winter sports season. The more you hit the slopes, the greater your risk of injury.

Snowboarding is a progressively popular sport and according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) it is the leading cause of winter sports injuries for people under age 20. The AAOS also cites the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, reporting nearly 100,000 snowboarding injuries were treated in hospitals and doctors’ offices in 2002.

“Wrist injuries are common with snowboarders but we also see a number of ankle injuries,” said Robert Veith, MD of the Foot & Ankle Center at Valley Orthopedic Associates (VOA).

Wrist injuries are especially prevalent among beginning snowboarders, Dr. Veith said. The feet are strapped to the board with no release mechanism; if a person falls backwards the arms are instinctively put out and the wrists take the impact.

Snowboarders experience more ankle sprains and fractures than skiers because of the boot used. Ski boots are hard and prevent ankle motion. Boots used by snowboarders – especially beginners – are often softer, allowing maneuverability.

The ankle joint is a complex “meeting” of three bones – the tibia, fibula and talus. The lower end of the tibia is the shinbone and the fibula is the small bone in the calf of the leg. Together the tibia and fibula form a socket for the talus.

The AAOS reports an increasing number of fractures of the talus among snowboarders.

“Talus fractures may be mistaken for ankle sprains, because of bruising and tenderness on the outer side of the ankle,” Dr. Veith said.

If you experience an ankle injury resulting in swelling, bruising or tenderness it is important to get medical attention right away.

“A fracture of the talus left untreated or that does not heal properly could cause continued ankle problems down the road,” Dr. Veith said.

In recognition of the NSAA’s “Head’s Up!” National Safety Awareness Week Jan. 15 – 21, Valley Orthopedic Associates recommends these safety tips when snowboarding or skiing:

  • Wear protective gear, including wrist guards, goggles, helmets and hard shell or “hybrid” boots.
  • Check all equipment thoroughly before using.
  • Warm up with simple stretching exercises before hitting the slopes.
  • Wear layers to keep your muscles and joints warm or cool accordingly.
  • If you are tired or have any pain, call it quits. You can always go back up another day.
  • If you experience an injury, seek medical attention immediately.
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