Although snowboarding’s ‘coolness factor’ might be melting slightly with more and more of us embracing two boards rather than one, snowboarding is still a hugely popular winter sport with a high risk of injury.
Snowboarding places a lot of pressure onto the body. Unlike skiing, which sees the lower limbs most at risk of injury, it’s the wrists, shoulders and upper body which can fare the worst when snowboarding. Shoulder injuries are especially common and can be incredibly painful and take months to heal. If you’re planning to strap on a board this winter, it helps to be aware of the common snowboarding shoulder injuries that can occur and how to avoid them.
Most common snowboarding injuries
It is estimated that shoulder injuries account for around 15% of all snowboarding injuries compared to 10% in skiers . There is an increased risk for first-day participants. There is also an increased risk for those using rented or borrowed equipment, because it might not fit properly and this also may be an indication that the participant is a recreational or a beginner (and not a professional) boarder. Other positive risk factors include alcohol and drug use.
The more advanced snowboarders are also at risk as they not only travel faster but also may incorporate jumps and aerials. If they suffer a fall, the higher velocity makes them more susceptible to shoulder instability.
Here’s most common snowboard shoulder injuries that we see at the London Shoulder Specialists at the Fortius Clinic.
1. Broken bones
Collarbone: a break in the clavicle, or collarbone of the shoulder, occurs during a fall onto the affected arm. It can also be caused if the clavicle is directly hit at force. As well as causing severe shoulder pain, a broken collarbone can also be tender around the break and may lead to a bony deformity or swelling. Some clavicle fractures require surgical intervention.
Humerus: the upper arm can be broken at a number of sites. Treatment depends on the position of the fracture, whether the bones move apart significantly and your demographics.
Glenohumeral dislocation: the ball of the shoulder comes completely out of its socket. This is an extremely painful injury and can occur while you’re on the slope. Sometimes it is possible to relocate the shoulder yourself, however it is advisable to seek medical assistance. Keeping the shoulder immobilised will help to reduce pain and inflammation. Ultimately some shoulders will need to be stabilised surgically, dependent on your age, occupation, sporting demands and the exact nature of the injury.
AC joint dislocation: this occurs when the collarbone dislocates from its joint on the top of the shoulder. This is usually less painful than a glenohumeral dislocation and the bones do not have to be manipulated back into position. There is often pain and swelling, and the arm becomes difficult to lift upwards. Again, some dislocations will need surgical intervention, whilst others can be treated non-operatively.
3. Soft tissue injury
Rotator cuff strains: these types of injuries are the one of the most common shoulder injuries and, depending upon the severity, can require surgery. The rotator cuff comprises four tendons which surround the shoulder joint, and help keep the shoulder stabilised and ensures smooth joint movement. Strains, inflammation and bruising can become very painful and you’ll have trouble lifting the arm to shoulder level.
Rotator cuff tear: if you suffer a significant rotator cuff tear in the tendons, surgery may be needed to repair the injury.
These are some of the main injuries that snowboarders present with. Many injuries can be treated through physiotherapy and other non-invasive treatments. However, it is important to seek advice, review and treatment as soon as possible. Leaving the shoulder untreated could cause the injury to worsen and surgery may end up being your only option. Not obtaining a proper diagnosis at the outset can cause prolonged unnecessary suffering or inappropriate treatment.
How to prevent snowboarding shoulder injuries
While snowboarding will always carry a risk of injury, there are things you can do to prevent the likelihood of them occurring. If you’re just starting out, making sure you research everything there is to know about correct techniques is recommended. Ensuring you have adequate safety gear will also help.
For the more advanced snowboarder, building up the shoulder muscles through regular strengthening exercises can greatly help in the event of a fall. If an injury does occur, seeking treatment as soon as possible will also help minimise the damage caused.
Overall, common snowboarding shoulder injuries can lead to substantial time away from the slopes, as well as excruciating pain. Being aware of the injuries which can occur, along with taking the time to prepare properly for the slopes are key to injury prevention.