For Immediate Release
Kevin Plancher, MD on the Mountain at Snowboarding World Cup in Spain
Top sports orthopaedist explains the most common injuries in snowboarding, and treats U.S Snowboard Team members competing in World Cup events in La Molina, Spain
NY, NY and Greenwich, CT, February 2008 As a physician for the U.S. Snowboard Team, Dr. Plancher was on hand to help the athletes at the most recent installment of the sports World Cup series, held in the La Molina Ski Resort, situated in the Pyrenees Mountains of Catalonia in northeastern Spain.
Wrapping up the 2007/2008 season of the Snowboard FIS World Cup, the competition lasted three days and featured roughly 200 boarders from around the world. While conditions were less than ideal ”very icy” no one was hurt from the US Team, and the Americans walked away with a single top-ten finish and hopes for more great competitions later this year. Top-finishing Americans included Tyler Jewell, of Steamboat Springs, CO, who nabbed third place in the Men’s Parallel Giant Slalom. Adam Smith, from Bend, OR; Chris Klug, of Aspen, CO; and Justin Reiter, also from Steamboat Springs, also finished in the top 30 in that event. Reiter also took 8th in the Men’s Parallel Slalom. And among the women, Erica Mueller, another Steamboat Springs native, came in 32nd in the Women’s Parallel Slalom.
Snowboarding on the Rise:
Snowboarding has come a long way from its humble beginnings, when a revolutionary thinker bolted two skis together and called it a surfer, to today, when riders represent roughly 20 percent of the visitors to U.S. ski resorts and number close to 3.4 million.
As the fastest-growing alpine sport today, snowboarding serves up plenty of adrenaline and injuries. And those injuries, ranging from simple muscle stiffness to broken bones and mangled joints, plague internationally ranked athletes as well as newbies.
When they think of snowboarding injuries, most people think about the problems that beginners face, like wrist sprains, says Kevin Plancher, MD a leading sports orthopaedist in the New York metropolitan area. That’s because most people try to catch themselves with their hands when they fall, and most beginning snowboarders fall a lot and aren’t going very fast. He notes that beginning snowboarders are much more likely to be hurt than more seasoned boarders in fact, nearly 25 percent of injuries occur during a snowboarder’s first day on the slopes and almost a half occur during their first season.
As snowboarders get more experienced, they tend to go faster and take bigger chances, says Dr. Plancher. The truth is that snowboarding is an extreme sport with considerable chance of injury, ranging from innocent little tumbles to high impact crashes. The overall injury rate is estimated to be 4 per 1,000 snowboarding days, similar to that in alpine skiing. But skiing and snowboarding have significant differences. The way your move and coordinate your body is fundamentally different in snowboarding, and that can produce very different injuries, Dr. Plancher says.
Unlike skiing, less than a third of snowboarding injuries are to the lower extremities; ankles and knees each represent about 16 percent of the injuries endured by boarders of all abilities. About half of ankle injuries are fractures, many of which go undetected. A snowboarder may think he’s got a bad sprain when it’s really a fracture of the lateral process of the talus, Dr. Plancher says. The condition is common enough to be known as snowboarders ankle.
Knees also take a beating in boarding. Beginners often hurt their knees falling in the lift line or getting on or off the chair, Dr. Plancher says. These are twisting falls that can really torque the knee. In more advanced riders, most knee injuries are caused by collisions or unexpected turning motions.
Experts and competitive snowboarders often wear hard boots, as well, which can increase the chances of knee injury. Most recreational snowboarders ‘between 75 and 90 percent’ wear soft boots, which are arguably more comfortable than hard plastic boots but provide a lot less stability. The softer your boots and the looser your bindings, the greater your risk of spraining or breaking a foot or ankle, Dr. Plancher explains. The firmer your boots and the tighter the bindings, the greater your risk of injuring a knee, which often means ligament damage or rupture.