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Since the inception of the idea of riding a board on the snow in the 1970s, the popularity of the winter sport of snowboarding has burgeoned. Snowboarding is the only area of the winter sports market that has continued to grow. The 1994–1995 NSAA Kottke National Business Survey indicated that 14% of the 54 million area visits in the United States were generated by snowboarders.1 It has been reported that 80% of children who participate in snow sports have ridden snowboards by their 12th birthday.2 Industry analysts project that by the early 2000s more than 40% of those on the slopes will be snowboarders.
With the rise in popularity of snowboarding there has been a change in the injury pattern of these winter sports participants as compared with skiing. There has also been the recognition of an ankle injury that is specific to and only occurs in snowboarding. Along with a number of other medical facilities in Colorado, our clinic participated in a 10 year survey of snowboarding injuries (1988–1999). A total of 7430 snowboarding related injuries were seen in 7051 patients; 74.1% of those injured were male and 25.9% were female. Of the injured snowboarders, 45.2% were beginners, 31.4% intermediate, and 23.4% expert. There were significantly more upper extremity injuries than with skiing, which accounted for 49.1% of all injuries.
Ankle injuries accounted for 12% of all injuries, and fractures of the lateral process of the talus fractures accounted for 3%. Lateral process fractures, or snowboarder's talus fractures, are problematic and continue to be underdiagnosed and under-reported. Any acute and/or persistent anterolateral ankle pain in a snowboarder should be considered a talus fracture until proven otherwise. Most of these fractures are not able to be diagnosed by plain radiographs and require computed tomography imaging for definitive diagnosis. Most snowboarder's talus fractures need operative treatment with excision of fracture fragments or internal fixation of the fractures.
With the continued growth of snowboarding it will be increasingly more important for practitioners to be familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of snowboarding injuries. The studies have resulted in identifying and defining of a spectrum of injuries different from those of alpine skiing. Now that the spectrum of snowboarding injuries has been identified, the challenge will not only be the appropriate treatment of such injuries but also education about, research into, and prevention of such injuries. This will not only be the responsibility of the health care provider but also that of manufacturers, ski area owners and developers, snowboard shops, as well as snowboarders themselves.
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