Medical Moment: Shredders & Wrist Guards

Dr. Diana Koelliker, Medical Director of Emergency Services & Telluride EMS Director

Medical Moment: Shredders & Wrist Guards

Telluride Inside… and Out is proud to feature the Telluride Medical Center’s MEDICAL MOMENT, a weekly column that answers common medical questions in pop culture. Have a question for the doctors? Click here to send.

Dr. Diana Koelliker answers this week’s question:

Dr. Diane Koelliker

Dr. Diana KoellikerDr. Diana Koelliker answers this week’s question:

Should Snowboarders Wear Wrist Guards?

As an emergency physician, the top three types of injuries I see in snowboarders are head injuries/concussions, wrist injuries and shoulder injuries.

It is nice to see that so many skiers and boarders have transitioned to wearing helmets on the hill. That has definitely cut down on the number and severity of head injuries in our ER. Helmets have become a part of most snowboarder’s gear, and it has certainly helped riders be safer.

Unfortunately, wrist guards are not used as commonly, but they are essential in preventing wrist injuries. The wrist injuries I see most commonly are sprains and fractures. Wrist guards have definitely been shown to decrease the severity of injury and even prevent less serious injuries from occurring. This has been proven in the laboratory and on the hill.

Numerous studies have validated this assertion and all studies, regardless of their methods, have shown a decrease in severity and numbers of injuries when wrist guards are worn. This is especially true in the younger, less experienced snowboarders. All too often, I see a young snowboarder with a minor wrist fracture, that I am sure would have been prevented by wearing wrist guards, and I have to explain that they will not be able to ski or board (or play hockey or go sledding) for the next 6 weeks until the fracture is healed. So much disappointment that could have been avoided!

There are lots of excuses for why someone doesn’t wear wrist guards….“I couldn’t find them”, “I forgot”, “I didn’t know I needed them”, “they won’t fit under my gloves,” etc. They now make some gloves with them built right in. If you make it part of your gear, you won’t forget them….just like you wouldn’t forget to wear your helmet or bring your pass.

Sometimes I hear people give the excuse that “I hear wrist guards just make you break your arm above the guard.” That is a common myth that has never been shown to be true in studies. Many orthopedic surgeons feel that in the unlikely event that a person does sustain a fracture above the wrist guards, that if they did not have them on, they would have suffered a more severe wrist fracture instead.

So the bottom line, especially for kids, is to wear wrist guards along with your helmet when you go snowboarding….so you don’t have to come see me in the ER! Stay safe out there and have a great season. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow……

Editor’s note: The Telluride Medical Center is the only 24-hour emergency facility within 65 miles. As a mountain town in a challenging, remote environment, a thriving medical center is vital to our community’s health.

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