Is Snowboarding Dangerous? A Feature by Richard Lubin, D.C.

Posted By: The Ski Channel on October 14, 2009 9:20 am

The answer is Yes, No, or Maybe. Like any sport, including skiing, there are inherent risks. Each individual chooses their own ‘risk tolerance’ through knowledge and behavior. So the more appropriate question may really be; is it dangerous compared to skiing? If you are just starting snowboarding is it more dangerous than skiing? Absolutely, Yes, if you are not careful. Unless you are 15 ,lucky, and flexible you need to be very cautious. Beginner boarders get hurt a lot. That’s OK we don’t want EVERYONE TO SNOWBOARD. It is like a fraternity, and that beginning segment, is the hazing. Read on and find out why that is not an inevitability.

Most studies demonstrate similar injury rates for skiing and snowboarding but the latter being slightly higher. It is still not that high at 3-6 injuries per thousand people. Since injuries are defined differently, some place it as low as 1%. I suppose that is margionally higher than playing it on the WII or watching ESPN, or Warren Miller. The snowboarding population tends to be younger, and younger people tend to be less experienced, take more risks and have more injuries. While many studies have looked at injuries of these two sports It may be informative see one comparing boarders versus skiers in the same age groups matched on many criteria. How about comparing backround in snowsports? It would also be revealing to look at where the injuries take place at the resorts. For example a terrain park yields many spectacular oohs, but also aaaahhes versus the rest of the mountain. We know that advanced boarders have injury rates fractional to beginners and fools.

The main difference with boarders’ maladies as opposed to ski injuries is which body parts tend to be injured. In short, snowboarders have more upper extremity injuries, skiers have more knee injuries.

Snowboarding, of course, has vastly increased in popularity since I started doing it 15 seasons ago. In 1998 snowboarding was incorporated into the Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. It is a common part of the media, X-Games and TV Ads. These factors have contributed to exposing it to more people. In Many resorts it represents 30-50% of their business.

A study released recently (2008), stated that snowboarding is the most dangerous outdoor activity, accounting for a quarter of ER Visits. This was collected from 63 hospitals. Past studies have also demonstrated this trend of more ‘emergency ‘injuries among snowboarders. Approximately half of those injured were between the ages of 10-24 and half of the injuries were caused by falls. Males were injured about twice as often as females. What a surprise, young male snowboarders are more likely to fall and be injured!

Broken bones and sprains represented about half the visits, Wrist fractures are common among beginners. The second most common cause for outdoor activity ER visits was, from this study,surprisingly, sledding. At less than half of boarding injuries it was followed by hiking. Skiing did not even make the top 4. This is a curious finding since the overall injury rate for skiers is similar to snowboarders.

It is well established that beginner boarders sustain a disproportionate number of injuries and the reason is clear, they fall more often. When you are falling, you tend to put your arm out. Approximately 20% of boarder injuries and 50% of fractures involve the wrist. Experienced boarders who have maladies are more likely to participate in high risk behaviors like jumping, performing tricks, doing rails, etc. especially in locations like terrain parks. Most safety professionals feel there are a disproportionate number of injuries in these ‘trauma parks’. Concussions appear much more frequent among snowboarders. Beginner, young adult and teen snowboarders are less likely to use helmets and other safety equipment. Yet this is the group that tries the most air)and also the beginners). This may well explain why snowboarders more frequently go to the ER. Gravity is, in fact, a persuasive disciplinarian.

My contention is that experienced boarders who do not engage in these types of perilous activities may have the same, or less, injuries than matched skiers. Prepared beginners can greatly and easily increase their probability for a joyful and ache free outcome.>CONTINUE TO PART 2