The American Journal of Sports Medicine on Jan. 20 published a study on snowboard injuries vs. skier injuries. Much of the data published in the study is synonymous with what we see in our offices. Snowboarders have a slightly higher rate of injury than skiers. The most common type of injury for snowboarders is wrist injuries; while for skiers, it's an ACL sprain.
According to the study, wrist injuries account for 28 percent of all snowboard injuries and only 3 percent of skiing injuries, while ACL injuries compose less than 2 percent of all snowboard injuries and 17 percent of skiing injuries. The study found the highest rate of injury among young, inexperienced, female snowboarders.
When it comes to snowboard wrist injuries, the most common scenario we see is the beginner snowboarder who is just learning the sport who fractures the wrist. In fact, 25 percent of all wrist surgeries involve snowboarders in their first three days on the mountain. So people learning to snowboard should always use wrist guards. It can help prevent a visit to the emergency room.
The most common injury among skiers is no question, to the knees. When you rotate and torque your knee at the same time, the force is transferred through the ski and the binding, through the stiff boot. The next "mobile" joint is the knee, thus subject to injury. Meniscal tears are common when this happens; "sitting in the back seat" in combination with the rotary torque causes the ACL to "pop," which is often audible to the patient as the ligament tears.
We have found clavicle, or collar bone, injuries are about equal among skiers and snowboarders, but disproportionately high in the terrain park, as expected. The AJSM study states that 22 percent of snowboard injuries occur in the terrain park while compared with 6.5 percent of ski injuries.
The most encouraging new trend is the decrease in serious closed head injuries or traumatic brain injuries. We believe the role of a helmet, especially in icy conditions, cannot be overstated.
Dr. Terrell Joseph is a physician with Vail-Summit Orthopaedics specializing in Hand and Upper Extremity, and Knee Surgery. About Vail-Summit Orthopaedics: Serving one of the most active sports populations in the country since 1979, the doctors at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics are among the most experienced physicians in sports medicine and orthopaedic surgery. Visit www.vsortho.com for more information.