Snowboarding Injuries

From the WebMD Archives

By Amy McGorry

The slopestyle course in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games sidelined a few athletes, leaving others worrying about the risk of injury. Shaun White, aka “The Flying Tomato,” even grounded himself from participating in that snowboarding event after he reportedly jammed his wrist while training for it.

Wrist injuries top the list of common snowboarding injuries, mostly because with snowboarding, the feet aren't free to help break a fall. Athletes usually wind up landing on outstretched hands, leading to sprains, fractures or “jammed” wrists.

When Wrist Injuries Are A Pain

The wrist consists of many different bones that connect to the forearms and hands. Rows of small bones (carpi) lead to the hands and glide over one another to move the wrist. When one bone is tweaked out of position during a fall, the rows can’t glide efficiently and the wrist feels jammed. It's kind of like what would happen if one of the Radio City Rockettes' timing was off -- the kickline performance would suffer.

A fall can also trigger inflammation of the surrounding soft tissue, ligaments, nerves and muscles of the wrist. Swelling, pain and numbness may result.

Why You're Sidelined

Snowboarding down a mountain or pipeline is risky: One bump can toss you on an extended wrist. If the shoulder, forearm and wrist muscles aren't strong, the wrist lacks a good cushion to absorb the shock. The impact can leave you with a jammed wrist -- or, worse, a fractured one. Additionally, if the muscles can’t provide enough stability to take the hit, ligaments and tendons can get torn as they try to compensate.

Wrist injuries can make bearing weight on the injured hand difficult. Push-ups, yoga poses and typing on a computer can become bothersome. Compensation for a lack of wrist movement can strain other areas, such as the elbow.

How To Stay In The Game

Do the Olympics have your snowboarding bug biting? Grab some wrist guards! Studies say wearing them results in fewer wrist injuries for snowboarders. Experts recommend wearing wrist guards that are made specifically for snowboarding -- they're flexible, long and protect both sides of the wrist. They also suggest that, before you hit the slopes, you take a lesson on how to fall properly.

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Here are some wrist-strengthening exercises to try:

Teeter-Totter Arms

  • In push-up formation, place hands on a wobble board
  • Engaging the abdominals, push down first with one hand, then the other
  • Keep elbows straight
  • Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Wrist Bends

  • Hold a dumbbell at your side, keeping elbow straight
  • Lift dumbbell forward moving only your wrist
  • Lift dumbbell backward moving only your wrist
  • 3 sets of 10 repetitions using each arm

Wrist Curls

  • Grab a dumbbell and stabilize forearm on table
  • Let wrist hang off the table, palm facing down
  • Holding dumbbell, lift wrist up and down
  • Turn palm up and lift wrist up and down
  • 3 sets of 10 repetitions using each arm

Wobble-Board Balance

  • Stand on wobble board
  • Maintain level balance for two minutes
  • Challenge: Toss a ball to partner for two minutes while maintaining level balance
WebMD Feature from Turner Broadcasting System
© Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

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