[medicom_row color=”null” title=”null”][/medicom_row]Thousands of snowboarders are thrilled each time they hear of yet another snow storm to hit their favorite mountains. The exhilaration they experience as they accelerate down the mountain while looking out into the beautiful white scenery is like nothing else in the world. The evolution of snowboarding over the last few decades has been fun and exciting to witness. It was only in the late ‘90s that snowboarding was added to the Olympics, and now two time Olympic Gold medalist Shaun White has even become a household name. This year he has been getting a lot of press, not just for his halfpipe performance, but even more so for his decision not to compete in slopestyle. Last week, he announced that he would not participate in the new slopestyle event in Sochi because of “potential risk of injury.” While some bloggers and journalists are suggesting that other reasons may have been involved in his decision, (“Shaun White’s Olympic Slopestyle Exit: Prudent or Selfish?”) his actions are an important reminder of the possible injuries involved in the sport. While snowboarding has the potential to be a safe sport, the combination of performing tricks added to the variation in terrain and snow conditions can make it dangerous even for the most accomplished athletes. The Washington Post article “In Sochi, snowboarders critical of Olympic halfpipe“ quotes “‘Everyone is not happy right now,’ said three-time Olympian Hannah Teter, the 2006 gold medal winner in the event. ‘I saw everyone take a hard fall today. That never happens. . . . ’”
Preventing Injuries with the right gear
Beginner snowboarders spend much of their first day on their backside. Padding to protect bruises on the knees, elbows, and tail bone can be worn. Wrist guards can also help protect from breaks and sprains. Helmets are a must for the high speeds, particularly if you plan on doing any jumps or tricks.
As far as regular snowboarding equipment goes, the nicer boots provide better support to protect the ankles. Most recreational boarders use soft boots which do not offer as much support for the ankles, while racers use hard boots that provide much more security to the ankle but can cause more knee trauma in a fall.
Take a lesson
Even if you are an expert skier, snowboarding requires a different technique. Learning how to snowboard properly will reduce the risk of falling. 25% of all snowboarding injuries occur during a person’s first day.
Stretch your ankles, hips, quads, and hamstrings before putting on your boots. Then warm up with an easier slope than you would normally ride, before moving on to the more advanced terrain.
Train off season
Strengthen your feet and ankles- these muscles are used to help you cut and turn
Strengthen your quads and hamstrings- you spend a lot of time squatting while on the mountain
Strengthen your hips and glutes- they are used to steer
You can find some exercises at Pro-Ride Snowboard Camp
Other safety tips
Make good decisions about the conditions. If they are worse than usual, stick with easier slopes. Stay off runs that have a lot of other snowboarders on them, particularly if you are a beginner and cannot control your direction. Also, avoid areas that have trees or other obstacles until you can control the board with confidence.
Stay safe on the mountain this winter and have fun.