It’s a really interesting question.
Do professional Snowboarders have different injury patterns to their recreational counterparts ?
Well this question was finally asked in the medical research in 2015.
And the answer ? Well sorta.
Both pro’s and us weekend warriors had the highest injury rates for ( you guessed it ) wrist fracture. Where things getting a little more interesting is the pattern of injuries. Recreational snowboarders still had far more wrist injuries than pro’s and approximately 40%–59% of all injuries occur in beginner snowboarders with 13%–23% of injuries occurring on the first day of snowboarding (1). The implications of this are that the pro’s are probably falling less but more importantly they are falling better.
The pro’s tended to get a higher frequency of lower limb injuries indicating different stresses and perhaps even some fatigue introduced to the lower limb.
So the take home message ?
Both groups need to do a better job of taking care of their wrists.
The overwhelming advice from researchers is firstly learn how to fall( 2). I am big believer in snowboard schools actually taking time to address the inevitable and looking at how to make contact with the earth in a biomechanically friendly way. Essentially this involves not using your wrist to stop a fall but tucking your arm and shoulder tight so that the force is distributed across your trunk rather than small petite carpal bones and my personal favourite ( think tiny T-rex arms ) the Clavicle.
A good set of wrist guards are probably a worthy investment. Much like the seatbelts don’t work myth there are few people that swear they don’t work but researchers are adamant they are a good idea with some studies reporting an 85% decrease in wrist fractures with the use of guards (3) .
3. B. Hagel, I. B. Pless, and C. Goulet
The Effect of Wrist Guard Use on Upper-Extremity Injuries in Snowboarders
Am. J. Epidemiol., July 15, 2005; 162(2): 149 – 156.