In Charleston, I don’t see the large numbers skiing and snowboarding injuries that orthopaedic surgeons who work near mountain resorts do. But people preparing for mountain vacations ask me frequently about skiing and snowboarding injuries.
Which sport is safer: skiing or snowboarding?
What types of injuries occur most often?
Can you prevent skiing and snowboarding injuries?
I’ve shared some ideas for preventing injuries in skiing and snowboarding, both in the blog and on the show. I thought that it might be interesting, though, to look at trends in injuries from skiing and snowboarding in recent years.
There seems to be little question that snowboarding is increasing in popularity. While it is thought that approximately 11.5 million Americans participated in skiing in 2010, about 8.2 million Americans participated in snowboarding during that same year.
In a study in the April 2012 issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine, Suezie Kim, M.D. et al. collected data on skiing and snowboarding injuries between 1988 and 2006 at Sugarbush Resort in Vermont. They included all skiers and snowboarders brought by ski patrol to the sports injury clinic at the base or those who walked into the clinic requesting medical assistance. Injured skiers and snowboarders with minor injuries, such as cuts, abrasions, bruises, and frostbite, were excluded.
As you might expect, snowboarding injuries increased over the course of the study – from about 5% initially to around 20% of the total injuries from the two activities. In fact, in 2000–2001, snowboarding accounted for 34% of the injuries seen at the Sugarbush injury clinic.
When looking specifically at snow skiing, skiers suffered more ACL injuries, MCL injuries, lower extremity contusions, LCL sprains, ulnar collateral ligament injuries of the thumb, and tibia fractures than did snowboarders. Among adult skiers, ACL injuries were the most common injury seen, while lower extremity contusions the most common skiing injury among children.On the other hand, the authors found wrist injuries, such as distal radius fractures, carpal fractures, and sprains, were the most common injuries among snowboarders. Overall, wrist injuries, shoulder soft tissue injuries, ankle injuries, concussions, and clavicle fractures were seen more often in snowboarders than in skiers.
The authors also found that young, female, and inexperienced snowboarders had the highest rate of injury. Most snowboarding injuries resulted from jumping and losing control and the subsequent impact with the snow.
While inexperienced snowboarders might have had higher rates of injury, clavicle fractures and ACL injuries often occurred among more experienced snowboarders in terrain parks. These parks usually have ramps, half pipes, and other features that allow skiers and snowboarders to perform tricks and big jumps.
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While a detailed explanation of ways to prevent each of the injuries that skiers and snowboarders could possibly suffer is well beyond the scope of this blog, there are some simple recommendations that can help to keep participants safe.
Check your equipment.
If you own skiing or snowboarding equipment, have it checked by someone knowledgeable in the equipment at a ski shop at least once a year.
Take lessons to learn to avoid injuries and learn how to fall safely.
Ski with other people.
This tip might not prevent injuries as much as ensure that others will notice if you fall and get hurt and will get medical help.
Stay within the marked boundaries.
Know the weather and snow conditions each day.
Take breaks periodically and stay hydrated. It is commonly thought that injuries occur more often after lunch and when skiers and snowboarders are fatigued.
Wear a helmet.
According to a tip sheet from the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, only 48% of American skiers and snowboarders regularly wear helmets.
Kim S, Endres NK, Johnson RJ, Ettlinger CF, Shealy JE. Snowboarding Injuries: Trends Over Time and Comparisons With Alpine Skiing Injuries. Am J Sports Med. 2012; 40(4):770-776.