WASHINGTON — When snowboarders fall, they go down hard--often on their wrists--and wrist guards don't give snowboarders enough protection, researchers report.
"Both feet are attached to the board, there aren't any poles, and when there is a fall, they fall quickly," researcher Jan R. Idzikowski said. "The natural reaction is to put hands out to mitigate the fall."
For 10 snowboarding seasons ending in 1998, researchers gathered information on the most common injuries reported to 47 medical facilities near Colorado ski areas. Questionnaires filled out by patients and doctors reported such things as the type of fall, whether protective equipment was worn, and the location and severity of the injury.
Most riders did not wear wrist guards, the strapped-on, metal-braced splints favored by in-line skaters, Idzikowski said. But even for those who did, "what's available now is probably inadequate," he said.
Idzikowski and colleagues at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Colorado published their findings in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
A total of 7,430 injuries were described, and the results were compared with 3,107 uninjured skiers in a control group.
The wrist was the most common area hurt, with almost 22% of total injuries, the report said. Almost 78% of the injuries were fractures, it said.
Thirty-four percent of all injuries to beginners were to the wrist, most of them fractures. However, beginners' injuries still were less severe than those of more advanced snowboarders. When the experienced riders hurt their wrists, the fractures were worse, the report said. "The more advanced you get, they do more aerial maneuvers," Idzikowski said.
Relatively few snowboarders wore wrist protection, about 6% of riders who reported injuries, the report said. More than 8% of uninjured comparison snowboarders wore them, a difference too small to be statistically meaningful, the report said.
The report did show a benefit to wearing wrist guards. Snowboarders with any type of injury who wore wrist guards were about half as likely to be seen with a wrist injury, compared with those who did not wear guards, the study found.
The risk reduction is important, but the protection afforded by guards currently on the market is not good enough, said Dr. Peter C. Janes, who collaborated with Idzikowski on the paper.
Snowboarders commonly wear guards made for in-line skating, with a narrow metal rod to absorb and deflect sudden impact from a hard surface, Janes said. But snowboarders need a broader and longer rod to handle the impact of falling on a snowboard slope, he said.