I was a certified Snowboard instructor for 18 years. The worst injury that I ever saw during a lesson was a beginner that broke their wrist falling when they got off the lift. I was fortunate to not have more serious injuries. Do skiers see more injuries? Or do Snowboarders?
Research for the National Ski Areas Association in the US claims to have settled the question: snowboarding has less risk of ending in serious injury.
Jasper Shealy, a professor emeritus at the Rochester Institute of Technology who has studied such injuries for 40 years, concluded that while snowboarders were 50% to 70% more likely to get injured, they are also around a third less likely to be killed on the slopes than skiers. Most of the skiing deaths were “due to collisions with fixed objects, where somebody is going at a relatively high speed”, said Shealy, speaking as tour operators predicted that 2018 could be a bumper year after the heavy snowfall since November prompted North American resorts to open early – though they have seen a trend towards booking late for the best snow.
The lower injury count in skiing may be due to advances in safety releasing equipment; in the 1970s broken legs were common because skis would often not come off at the right time. Today, he said the injury is “almost non-existent”.
He added: “When a snowboard rider falls, the edge of the snowboard drags on the snow and acts like a brake. But that can also cause fractures.”
I skied from age 4 to age 14 then switched to snowboarding. I did get pretty beat up learning to snowboard in the early stages of the sport. The equipment for Snowboarding and Skiing has improved substantially so serious injuries in both have been reduced substantially.
James Stentiford, a pro snowboarder, said the culture of snowboarding was different. “Skiing is all about racing, even if it’s just to see who’s the first back home. Snowboarders are more focused on manoeuvres: jumps and tricks, which are done at a slower pace. Though naturally, it’s easier to get hurt doing them.”
The study does have one piece of uncontroversial good news: head injuries have declined by 50% since 1999, a statistic attributed to the increase in helmets being worn on the slopes. I remember when Sonny Bono and one of the Kennedy’s died and experts agreed that both deaths may have been prevented with helmets. Since that time in the late 90s people have made helmets part of the uniform.
Snow this season is looking pretty good in the Rocky Mountain region. Especially UTAH. We are off to a great start with early season levels exceeding what was available in January last season. Of course the snowfall helps increase the participant numbers for both disciplines.
Three tips for avoiding injury in each sport
• “Impact shorts” look like padded underwear and help snowboarders absorb falls and keep cold chairlifts at bay. I wear these everyday skiing or snowboarding. It is nice to be able to kneel down on hard packed snow or ice.
• Wrist guards can spread impact shocks and help prevent broken bones. Or just practice making fists when you go down. Don’t try to catch yourself with your fingers extended.
• Modern helmets are light and provide great protection against the dreaded “heel edge catch”. I love my helmet. It protects me from fixed objects and from the chance of someone colliding with me unexpectedly.
• Correctly setting the ski binding’s DIN release mechanism can prevent bone, ligament and tendon damage in the lower leg. This should be done by a certified expert technician. There is an art to this and that is why you sign a form agreeing with your ability and size when you drop off your equipment. Be careful to not overstate your ability.
• Shorter skis can lower the leverage on legs and help prevent tibia and fibia breaks. Shorter skis work so much better. Because of shaping, flex, and width starting with shorter skis is wise.
• A five-minute warm-up can relax tendons, ligaments and muscles. I also recommend making sure that you do some pre ski workouts. Don’t show up at the beginning of the season without doing squats to warm up the legs days in advance. Many times these muscles have been dormant. This can save you from having a very sore back.
Orthopedic Specialist Dr. Michael Mizhiritsky recommends ” Anyone about to hist the slopes should be sure to warm up first with dynamic stretches by increasing flexibility, muscles are less likely to suffer strains and other injuries.” another Orthopedic Specialist Dr. Leon Popovitz says,” my patients use shorter skis in order to prevent leg fractures and knee injuries.”
As the snow gets deeper these are great suggestions to keep your season going.