• Dr. Jennifer Nicole Falk

Snowboarding Injuries: Trends & Statistics


The number of snowboarding participants in the U.S. has greatly increased from over 2 million in 1995 to about 7.6 million in the 2015-2016 season (3,6). This increase in participation is likely due, in part, to the introduction of snowboarding into the 1998 Winter Olympics (6).


With an increase in involvement, one would also expect an increase in the injury rate; however, a 2018 study showed differently. Seleznev et al evaluated snowboarding injuries from 2010 to 2016 that presented to the emergency department. During that time period, the overall rate of snowboarding-related injuries decreased from 56,223 in 2010 to 17,667 in 2016. The number of snowboarding fractures also significantly decreased over the study time period (6).


The reasons for the decrease in injury rate could be numerous. With an increase in participation, better equipment may be more available or more people may be taking lessons, which would likely improve their overall skill level snowboarding (6). If there is access to medical professionals at the resort, or people think their injury is less severe and wait until they go home to see a physician (or don’t see one at all), they may not present to the nearby emergency department, which would decrease the overall emergency department admission rate, but also cause the total injury rate to be underreported (6).


Injury Rates & Patterns

The upper extremity, specifically the wrist, is the most common site for snowboarding-related fractures; however, fractures of the lower extremity can also occur (3,6). Behind ankle sprains, ankle fractures are the second most common injury to the lower extremity, followed by foot (metatarsal) fractures (3).


Another, more unique, injury to snowboarders is a fracture of the lateral process of the talus. Fractures of the talus, in general, are not considered a common injury; however, snowboarders are 15 times more likely to sustain a fracture of the lateral process (5). As a result, the term “snowboarder’s fracture” is sometimes used to describe a fracture of the lateral process of the talus. The exact mechanism of injury is not well known, but it appears to occur with jumps in snowboarding (2,4). The injury is often misdiagnosed as a lateral ankle sprain (2,4). Therefore, if a snowboarder complains of lateral ankle pain after an injury, a fracture of the lateral process of the talus should be in the list of differential diagnoses, and a CT scan should be considered.


The vast majority of foot- and ankle-related snowboarding injuries results from falling (74.7%); however, twisting, colliding with a tree or another skier, and getting on and off a lift can also result in injury (3). Most injuries (62.4%-91%) occur with the leading leg (3).


Injury Prevention

Snowboarding injuries appear to be high in beginners. A 1991 study by Abu-Laban found an injury rate of 36% in first-time snowboarders with an additional 25% of injured snowboarders having 1 year or less of experience (1). Interestingly, another study found that first-time snowboarders, who were given lessons, only had a 4% injury rate; therefore, having lessons may help prevent injury, especially in snowboarding novices (2).


Alongside being new to the sport, not wearing protective devices, such as wrist guards increases one’s risk of snowboarding-related wrist injuries, so it’s important to wear the appropriate equipment when snowboarding (2).


Summary

With an increased number of snowboarding participants, one would also expect an increase in injuries. Although that may not be the case, there may also be reasons for it going underreported. In the foot and ankle, fractures and sprains are the most common types of injuries, and most injuries occur as the result of falling. Injury rates appear to be lower in beginners who have lessons and those who wear wrist guards.


DISCLAIMER: The above information is meant for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult the doctor, or your own healthcare professional, should you have questions or concerns related to your health.


References:

1. Abu-Laban, R. B. (1991). Snowboarding injuries: an analysis and comparison with alpine skiing injuries. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal, 145(9), 1097.

2. Bladin, C., McCrory, P., & Pogorzelski, A. (2004). Snowboarding injuries. Sports medicine, 34(2), 133-138.

3. Kirkpatrick, D. P., Hunter, R. E., Janes, P. C., Mastrangelo, J., & Nicholas, R. A. (1998). The snowboarder's foot and ankle. The American journal of sports medicine26(2), 271-277.

4. Kramer, I. F., Brouwers, L., Brink, P. R., & Poeze, M. (2014). Case Report: Snowboarders’ ankle. BMJ case reports2014.

5. Mussmann, S. E., & Poirier, J. N. (2010). Snowboarder's fracture caused by a wakeboarding injury: a case report. Journal of chiropractic medicine9(4), 174-178.

6. Seleznev, A., Shah, N. V., Desai, R., Le, C., Cleary, P., Naziri, Q., ... & Newman, J. M. (2018). Trends of snowboarding-related fractures that presented to emergency departments in the United States, 2010 to 2016. Annals of translational medicine6(11).


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