Although snowboarding is already established as an Olympic sport, it is still a developing sport, with new disciplines, more demanding snow installations, and spectacular tricks. A recent study on subjects at Norwegian national elite level showed that injury risk is high and that injuries among competitive snowboarders differ from those seen in recreational snowboarders, with fewer wrist injuries and more knee and back injuries.
To describe the incidence and type of injuries among female and male snowboarders at international elite level.
At the last race of the Fédération Internationale de Ski Snowboard World Cup, acute injuries resulting in missed participation and overuse injuries influencing performance, were recorded during a retrospective interview (91% response rate). The registration period was from April 2002 (end of season) until March 2003. Exposure was recorded as the number of runs in all disciplines, and the incidence was calculated as number of injuries per 1000 runs.
The 258 athletes interviewed reported 3193 competition days (n = 46 879 runs) in all disciplines. In total, 135 acute injuries were recorded; 62 (46%) during competition in the official disciplines. Of the 135 acute injuries, the most common injury locations were knee (n = 24; 18%), shoulder (n = 18; 13%), back (n = 17; 13%), and wrist (n = 11; 8%). The overall incidence during competition was 1.3 (95% confidence interval 1.0 to 1.7) injuries per 1000 runs; 2.3 (0.9 to 3.8) for big air (n = 10), 1.9 (1.1 to 2.8) for halfpipe (n = 21), 2.1 (1.2 to 3.0) for snowboard cross (n = 20), 0.6 (0.2 to 1.0) for parallel giant slalom (n = 8), and 0.3 (0.0 to 0.7) for parallel slalom (n = 3). The severity of injuries was graded based on time loss (27% lost >21 days) and score on the Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) (38% AIS 1, 61% AIS 2 and 1% AIS 3). There were 122 overuse injuries, 38 (31%) of these to the knee.
The injury risk for big air, snowboard cross, and halfpipe disciplines is high, while that for the snowboard slalom disciplines is lower. The injury pattern is different from recreational athletes, with a greater share of knee injuries and fewer wrist injuries. Compared with national level, the injury risk appears to be lower at World Cup level.