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Snowboarder Injuries

Dr Mark Nelson

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Snowboarders Incur More Foot and Ankle Injuries than Skiers

The snowy slopes of the world’s ski hills aren’t the only places where snowboarding is hot. Podiatric surgeons’ offices have also become a popular spot for snowboarders.

Unlike skiing, in which there is a higher rate of lower-leg and knee injuries, snowboarders experience a higher percentage of foot and ankle injuries. "The probable reasons we’re seeing more snowboarders with foot and ankle injuries are that their boots are much softer and flexible than skiers’ and their snowboard bindings are not releasable," says Richard T. Bouché, DPM, a Seattle podiatric surgeon and a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS). Dr. Bouche specializes in sports-related foot and ankle injuries.

Dr. Bouché, who is an alpine skier, is seeing more snowboarders with midfoot sprains, which is a ligamentous injury to the mid-portion of the foot.

"A midfoot sprain occurs when the foot is impacted in the tip-toe or axially loaded position," says Dr. Bouché. "Because of the flexibility in a snowboarder’s boot, their foot can easily assume this toe position upon impact. A stiffer boot would protect the ankle and hold the foot in position."

The key to a midfoot sprain is early diagnosis, which according to Dr. Bouché, is not often the case.

"A midfoot sprain is difficult for patients to recognize because after the injury everything is swollen and hurts," he says. "If their injury is combined with an ankle sprain, the ankle sprain is treated but the midfoot sprain is usually not. A patient doesn’t realize it until months after when their midfoot pain persists"

One simple way patients can test for a midfoot sprain is by standing on their tiptoes. If they have a midfoot sprain they won’t be able to tolerate the pain and their foot will not be able to maintain this position.

Dr. Bouché feels that snowboarders can prevent midfoot sprains by wearing stiffer boots, but acknowledges that snowboarders like the flexibility of movement a softer boot gives them.

"Let’s face it, snowboarders know that there are inherent risks in what they do," says Dr. Bouché. "But I guess risks are part of the sport’s allure."

This article was provided with permission from the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons.


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Last modified: 10/13/10