Shoulder Injuries

“It happened on a really warm day two years ago, in Lech, Austria: Ballantines had organized one of their legendary pipe jam sessions, and I’d been riding the pipe all day long. I’d been doing some pretty good backside 540s earlier in the day, but as the day progressed, all the snowboarding began to wear on me. Late in the afternoon, pretty tired but still thinking that I was in a good shape, I tried to spin another backside 540. Wrong decision! I didn’t drop in with enough speed. As a result, I stopped spinning two thirds of the way through my rotation. I tried to keep from falling by reaching down with my trailing hand, but my arm smacked the top of the pipe instead.

My arm hurt for days, but I didn’t take it seriously. I went partying instead. A few weeks later in Ischgl, Austria, I did a nosebone over a big air jump and my shoulder popped out of the socket. It hurt like hell, but luckily it popped back into the socket by itself. This happened four more times before I sought medical attention.”Martina Tscharner

Shoulder injuries amount to almost fifteen percent of all snowboard–related injuries and are especially common among advanced snowboarders. This is due to the rider’s higher velocity, which in the case of a fall, often causes instability of the shoulder. As described by Martina, shoulder injuries most often occur when trying to avoid a crash–falling on the shoulder in a tense backward-outstretched arm position.

How can I avoid a shoulder dislocation?

On long-distance jumps, spin tricks with spread arms can be

fatal–especially if you lose balance. Keep your arms close to your body and center your balance.

Serious shoulder injuries can be avoided by not overestimating your riding capabilities and listening to the fatigue signs of your body. A shoulder out of place (dislocation) is very painful and can also lead to dangerous situations in mountain areas.

What can I do if my shoulder goes out?

In the case that your shoulder dislocates and does not immediately relocate by itself, be sure never to do any radical treatment such as a shoulder-repositioning maneuver without professional medical assistance. Keep your arm immobilized to reduce the pain, and get immediate medical care. An X-ray is a must. A shoulder dislocation often means a disruption of ligaments and cartilage damage. If you already suffer from a shoulder injury such as Martina, a good functional muscular system can often help to avoid surgery. Physiotherapy is the key. Shoulder-brace systems do not solve the problems but can definitely give better support and psychological awareness. If your muscular system cannot compensate, surgery will be needed to repair the damaged ligaments, enabling you to rebuild a stable shoulder.