22.12.2020

Repetitive strain injuries are rare in snowboarding due to the versatile training the sport requires. The most typical injuries usually occur when landing a jump or falling. Good muscular fitness and joint mobility reduce the risk of injury, says orthopaedic surgeon Mikko Kirjavainen, who worked as a physician for Finnish snowboarders during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Snowboarding injuries are almost invariably acute.

“Repetitive strain injuries are so rare that I haven’t even encountered them. Those injuries don’t develop because the training is so versatile: there are no continuous repetitions, the same movement is not done over and over again for two hours straight. With snowboarding, there is always one descent, and then you rest during the ski lift trip,” explains Mikko Kirjavainen, orthopaedic surgeon at Mehiläinen Sports Hospital.

The most common injuries for snowboarders are ankle, knee, and wrist injuries.

“A common cause for them is an unsuccessful landing or a fall. The knees take hits when the jump falls short and you land on the flatland after the ramp, and not on a slope. The knee may then bend or take damage from the impact. We also see some collar bone and side injuries, which result from falling against a railing.”

Treatment: cast or operation

Recovery and healing depend a lot on the type of injury.

“The general rule is that for an ankle or a wrist fracture, a cast or an operation is required. The recovery takes two weeks or even two months. With a well-made cast or other support, the athlete can already go back to snowboarding maybe two weeks after a wrist injury. An ankle fracture needs more time to heal, but a proper support and cast can speed up the recovery.”

Knee injuries take longer to heal.

“Knee injuries are at the other end of the scale. The recovery often takes 6 to 12 months, so for the athlete the snowboarding season is over.”

Mikko Kirjavainen has patched up Finnish snowboarders for instance when working as their physician during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018.

“In the middle of a competition certain injuries can be supported or anesthetized so that the athlete can finish their performance. This will only be done if we are certain that the injury can’t get worse. For example, in PyeongChang we anesthetized one athlete’s side injury so that they could continue with their descents. We did the same thing with one wrist injury.”

Only a strapped helmet protects the head

Even though most snowboarding injuries are acute, their risk can be reduced, says Kirjavainen.

“Good muscular fitness and joint mobility are good ways to reduce the risk for injuries.”

Kirjavainen reminds both the professional snowboarders and amateurs of one thing especially.

“Whenever you come down the slope, wear a helmet, and wear it strapped.”

Expert tips for snowboarders:

  • take care of your muscular fitness and joint mobility
  • always wear a helmet
  • start with the easy stunts and ramps – move on to more challenging ones when you have more skills
  • remember the joy of snowboarding and versatile training
  • in case of an injury, see a physician as soon as possible