Thursday, December 27, 2012

Stay Safe on the Slopes: Preventing Snowboarding Injuries

With the winter sports season quickly approaching, it is important to consider how to stay injury-free on the slopes. How do you make sure that you get the most of this year’s snow and not wind up in the operating room? We will discuss some important ways to stay safe and injury-free.

The two most common mechanisms of injuries in snowboarding are falling or a direct/traumatic blow. The most commonly injured body parts are the arm, shoulder, head and wrist. Many injuries are minor, but others can require surgery and have a recovery time of 3 to 6 months. 
Be smart and take some precautions so that you can get the most out of this year’s snow and not wind up in the ER.  There are a few simple precautions that one can take to prevent injury. 
Take a Lesson
If you are new to the sport, get a licensed instructor to help you learn the sport. Instructors can be instrumental in helping you master the sport of snowboarding.  They can make sure you have the proper equipment and guide you to the appropriate training terrain.  With an instructor, you will also be taught proper techniques and form.  An instructor will even teach you the best way to fall without getting hurt. 

Proper Equipment
Make sure you have equipment that fits properly. This is extremely important. Bindings that are too loose or too tight are definitely a contributing factor to many injuries.  Helmets are also extremely important for injury prevention. In addition to a helmet, it is recommended that boarders wear wrist guards, knee pads and elbow pads.  It is estimated that using protective equipment can reduce injuries by 43%!

Use Common Sense
Most injuries occur after lunch, when the boarder is tired and fatigued.  The conditions also change after lunch and can become more icy or ‘skied-off’.  Make sure to stay hydrated, take breaks and stay alert. If you feel tired; stop and rest. 

Obey the Rules – National Ski Associations Responsibility Code
Know the code!  Follow the responsibility code and prevent injury. 
·        Always stay in control
·        People ahead of you have the right-of-way
·        Stop in a safe place for you and others
·        Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield
·        Use devices to help prevent runaway equipment
·        Observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails
·        Know how to use the lifts safely
There are many ways to prevent injury and stay safe this year on the slopes.  Be aware, wear proper equipment and stop when you are tired.  Follow these simple guidelines and have a great time on the slopes!
John Vitolo, MD is an orthopedic surgeon in Sparta, NJ.  He currently holds dual board certification in Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. For more information visit us online at