Returning to Snowboarding After an Injury
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
Suffering an injury doesn’t mean you have to kiss goodbye to your board.
It just means you need to make sure you get the right treatment, rehabilitation, precautions and preparations to make sure you fully recover and don’t sustain the same injury again. As injury management experts, we at CTi Knee Braces have helped many boarders find their feet and return to the sport they live and breathe for. Today, we’ll talk you through what you can do to get back to the powder.
ACL injuries a real bugbear for boarders
A common injury among snowboarders is a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). This is usually caused by bending, twisting or landing in the wrong place too many times while your carving or jumping. When trying to turn on the slopes, you’ll usually start by moving your head and shoulders and then your hips, which forces your knees and feet to follow. However, with your feet strapped to the board, this creates resistance, resulting in a disconnect between the top and bottom halves of your body.
With the knees being the weakest point in this scenario, they tend to suffer the injury. Add to this a bump or mogul to traverse, and you’ll be forced into an unnatural motion and shift of weight onto your knees. Likewise, when riding kickers or performing an ollie, any twist in your body below the waist can apply unnatural pressure when you land.
We aren’t saying that every twist and impact combination will result in a injury, but if it’s going to happen, it will most likely be during these scenarios.
How to tell if you have a torn ACL
If you’ve fallen and have pain in your knee or knees, you could have a torn ACL. But that’s not to say that you’ll have to call for a stretcher, as many people with a mild ACL injury are still able to get down the mountain. So, how do you tell what type of injury you have?
ACL and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) injuries - another common injury among snowboarders - are categorized by three grades based on an assessment one week after the injury took place:
Grade 1 - this is usually for an injury where you can still stand up, bend your knee and rotate your foot, ankle and knee but are in considerable pain and may have some swelling.
Grade 2 - when some fibers are torn causing a loss of function, pain and swelling.
Grade 3 - means the ligament is torn, which results in complete lack of stability and an inability to support your own body weight - even while standing still. In this case, surgery is often used to repair or replace the damaged ligament.
Treating an ACL injury
In the first instance when you have injured your knee, adopt PRICE; protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation. Protect your knee with a compression brace, rest your knee by avoiding strenuous activities, and keep your knee raised. Use ice and anti-inflammatory medication to reduce your pain and swelling.
If you need to take a trip to a doctor, they will be able to tell you if you need to use a knee immobilizer or extension splint to isolate the knee and keep it straight. They should also arrange a follow-up appointment one week later, so they can determine the grade of your injury. Treatment can include a knee brace and crutches. Surgery is not usually a viable option for most people who suffer an ACL or PCL injury - but if you’re very active, you may want to consider reconstructive surgery.
Rest and rehabilitation are the key to recovery. However, for many snowboarders, worry comes from the possibility of not being able to ride again or continue at the same level.
Recovering after a knee injury
Recovery times vary depending on the individual and the grade of the injury. Once an injury has healed, you will need to undergo a program of rehab for your day-to- day life.
However, if you want to get back on the mountain, you’ll need to organize your own program.
If the fibers or the ligament have healed or been reconstructed, you may feel as good as new, but you’ll know in the back of your mind that you’re not. At this point, you’ll want to consider a knee brace. Research shows that snowboarders who have had surgery and do not brace are almost three times more likely to suffer an injury than those who have had surgery and use a brace.
A knee brace has two main advantages: support and compression of the knee and a
reminder for riders to think about their knees and their technique. However, a knee brace is not the only answer; getting fit for the slopes is also vital.
Getting fit for the slopes again
To get yourself back up to a fitness for the slopes, you should begin to build yourself back up. Swimming, cycling and other non-weight bearing exercises can be particularly effective.You should also incorporate other ACL-specific exercises into your routine. If you haven’t already started doing knee flexion and extension, heel slides, hamstring stretches and groin stretches during physiotherapy, then now is the time to do these. Calf raises will help you get specific area strength back in your knees, as will isometric quadriceps exercise and hamstring curls with a band. You should also try static hamstring holds with a partner. Once you feel your strength returning, you can attempt lunges and static lunges.
To get ready for the slopes, there are a number of things you can try out. If you’re already on the snow, then you should give Snoga (or Snow Yoga) a go - the outdoor form of yoga is growing in popularity as a way to make you fitter and more flexible. If you’re not on the slopes, then using an exercise ball will suffice. Ball workouts can be done in your gym or living room and are useful for building strength and balance.
Experiencing an ACL tear or similar knee injury can make you doubt your ability to get back on the board; however, with time, patience and the right preparation, including a properly fitted knee brace, there is no reason you cannot go on snowboarding. Being aware of your injury and working hard to overcome it will likely make you a better snowboarder in the end.
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This article was first published on 2/27/2018 at https://www.worldsnowboardguide.com/news/returning-to-snowboarding-after-an-injury.html