As winter approaches, many people will be dusting off their snowboards and hitting the slopes. Each year over 250,000 people injure themselves due to winter sports, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Whether you are just starting out or have been snowboarding for years, consider these tips from Spencer Elliott, a physical therapist at DMOS Orthopaedic Centers, to help prevent injuries when snowboarding.
1. Wear Proper Equipment
Always wear a helmet no matter your skill level. Helmets have been proven to save lives and prevent traumatic head and brain injuries in many different sports, including snowboarding. To ensure your helmet fits correctly follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
If you are just beginning to snowboard or are on the more adventurous side, consider investing in a good pair of wrist guards. These will help absorb some of the impact from falls. Falls will happen, even with intermediate snowboarders, so it is essential to protect the areas of your body that receive a majority of the impact.
2. Warm-up, Cool-down, and Stretch
Snowboarding is a very physical activity, so a proper warm-up and cool down is vital. In general, Elliott recommends warming up your legs with active dynamic stretching including high knees, butt kicks, karaoke, walking lunges, body weight squats, and quad pulls.
To prevent muscle soreness, it is also important to cool down after you are finished snowboarding. Stretch the muscles you just used including torso, hips, and legs by using any of the warm-up stretches.
3. Stay Hydrated and Rest during the Day
The winter brings a cold, dry air so it can be misleading how much you are sweating when doing physical activities like snowboarding. Like any intensive activity, your muscles will generate head, and your body sweats to cool down from the heat. You will need to replace this water loss by staying hydrated. Increasing your water intake will also help improve your concentration and performance on the slopes.
Another important factor to preventing injuries while on slopes, is to rest throughout the day. When your muscles tire, they lose control, strength, and power which can increase your chances of injury. In general, Elliott recommends resting 10 minutes for every hour you are on slopes to give your muscles time to recover and hydrate.
4. Improve Balance and Core Stability with Exercise
Excellent balance and core stability are crucial to preventing injuries when snowboarding. Balance and stability can help reduce falls and improve control of your body. One way to improve your balance and core stability is through yoga and pilates classes.
5. Safe Falling Techniques
When it comes to snowboarding, falling is an “if” not a “when.” Everybody falls during snowboarding – even Olympic athletes. Knowing how to fall safely can significantly reduce your chance of injury. When you are falling the natural reaction to reach out your arms to protect yourself, however, this can cause injuries to your wrist, elbow, and shoulder.
Instead of trying to catch yourself with your hands, Elliott suggests using the “tuck and roll” technique. This technique involves tucking your head and shoulder down and bringing your arms closer to your chest. In doing so, you will spread the force of the fall out to a larger area of your body, rather than putting all the stress in one area.
6. Know Your Limits and Take Snowboarding Classes
Only you know your skill level so make sure you are choosing slopes that are appropriate, and you feel comfortable going down. Do not allow peer pressure to influence your decisions. If a hill is outside of your comfort zone, do not go down it.
People just beginning to snowboard should consider taking a snowboarding class from a trained instructor. Lessons increase not only your safety but also the other people around you on the slopes.