Can You Snowboard With a Torn ACL?
ACL injuries are the most common injuries to endure while snowboarding. With the constant change of direction, twisting and turning and harsh landings, this sport is generally very tough on the knees.
Many snowboarders are skiers who transitioned to the sport because it’s known to be easier on the knees. In snowboarding, uncontrolled knee joint twists happen less often than in skiing. However, this doesn’t mean that injuries won’t happen.
A snowboarder can enjoy the sport for years and years as long as they take care of themselves. Let’s look at some common issues with ACL tears in conjunction with snowboarding and see how you can avoid this pesky injury.
Are ACL Injuries Common In Snowboarding?
The ACL is a ligament that is in the centre of the knee. It connects the tibia (shin bone) to the femur (thigh bone). Ultimately, it provides rotational support in the knee joint.
An ACL tear is the most commonly seen injury amongst snowboarders. There are a variety of reasons for why and how this injury happens. The most important thing to know is that when this injury does happen, you will know it. Most people hear a “pop” sound and immediately lose stability in their leg.
Over the past 25 years, there has actually been an influx of ACL injuries seen among snowboarders. However, there are many ways to actively prevent this type of injury from happening.
Using properly secure bindings, wearing knee braces, and cross-training your quads and hamstrings are a few examples of how you can be proactive in preventing this type of injury when enjoying snowboarding.
Are Knee Injuries Common In Snowboarding?
Knee injuries in general are very common in snowboarding. As a high-impact sport with many different variables present, the chance of injury is very much possible.
Knee ligament injuries are the most prevalent type. Besides the ACL, there is also the MCL and LCL that can be commonly injured as well.
The MCL is the ligament on the inside of the knee, connecting the thigh bone and shin bone. The LCL is the ligament on the outside of the knee joint that connects the thigh bone to the fibula (a smaller bone on the bottom half of the leg).
A meniscus tear is also a common knee injury. The meniscus acts as a shock absorber in the knee.
Over time, the meniscus can wear down because of repetitive movements that place strain on the knee joint. That is a type of chronic injury that can slowly occur and then flare up suddenly. A meniscus tear can also happen abrubtly, similar to the ligament injuries mentioned above.
While snowboarding, tremendous pressure is added to the lower half of the body. Landing jumps can place stress on the legs, with the knee joint taking the brunt of the impact. Twisting and turning suddenly also places stress on the knees as well.
Being aware of how your body is working while snowboarding can help you prevent common mistakes that lead to injury.
You will lose muscle mass
Your body will hold on to nutrients in the form of fat in order to protect itself
You will be depleted in physical and mental energy
You will notice apparent mood changes
Motivation will waver
Snowboarding Knee Injury
Within snowboarding, there are many different variables at play. Other people around you may not be focused, which can cause an accident. Strong winds may hinder your balance and vision. You could misjudge a landing.
All of these factors could lead to an injury. However, a lot of knee injuries aren’t as clear as ACL injuries. People have injured their meniscus or other ligaments and barely notice right away. It’s only after continuously placing stress on the knee (which snowboarding does) that they slowly realise that the injury is present.
Sometimes the injury itself isn’t a complete cause for alarm. It’s when you continue to practice the sport while not treating the injury that issues could come into play.
An overall weakness in the legs may be assessed when an injury is present. And although you can walk perfectly fine and perform your sport, it still feels like you aren’t as strong and stable as you would like to be.
The other muscles in the legs tend to overcompensate for the weakened ligament or cartilage. This can cause a major imbalance in the strength of your legs, leading to further injury.
It’s also important to remember that our entire body is connected. If you have any type of injury going untreated, chances of another part of your body getting affected is definitely possible.
Many people with knee injuries notice that their back ends up in pain as well. That is because the back is working extra hard to keep the body stable, as the knee joint is struggling.
Snowboarding ACL Injury
An ACL injury can happen similarly to the other injuries discussed above, however, it’s more common for this injury to occur from blunt trauma.
Having a rough, incorrect landing could cause a tear in the ACL. Any kind of torque that is too strong puts a lot of strain on the small ligament. This is common in snowboarding, as bending, twisting and unnatural movements are an everyday occurrence in the sport.
If you suddenly feel a weakness in your knee joint, particularly with a pop sound and tingling sensation, it’s likely that you have injured your ACL. However, there are a few different grades of a torn ACL that you should be aware of.
You are still able to bear a bit of weight, bend your knee and there will be a considerable amount of pain and swelling. This is most likely a tiny tear.
The function of bending and bearing weight is still possible but excruciatingly painful. This is most likely a tear of some of the ACL fibres.
Weight-bearing and bending of the knee aren’t possible. You will notice rapid swelling. This is a complete tear.
Grade 1 and 2 can be treated with a regimented physiotherapy programme. You will be able to repair the small and incomplete tears over time. You will also be able to strengthen the ACL itself as well as all of the surrounding ligaments and muscles, creating a stronger foundation than before.
Grade 3, however, will most likely need surgery to repair the completely torn ligament. This type of surgery takes a few months to heal, followed by physiotherapy.
The good news is that these injuries aren’t a complete threat to your time on the slopes. If you are dedicated to your physiotherapy programme and continue to rest and recover, you will be flying down the mountains in no time.
How To Avoid Snowboarding Injury
The best way to avoid snowboarding injuries is by being proactive. Here are some things you can incorporate to make sure you are strong on the slopes.
Cross-training is the act of working muscles and parts of your body that aren’t dominant in your sport. When practising a sport that repetitively uses certain muscles, those muscles tend to get very strong. The other muscles, however, end up neglected.
Incorporating well-rounded full-body workouts that work every plane of motion is key. Some people make the mistake of only working on just the backside of their body or just the front side. It’s important to work with every side equally, as the goal is to create a strong balance between each opposing muscle group.
For example, if you are constantly working your hamstrings in the gym, but not your quadriceps, an imbalance will be created. The best way to create a programme that works for you is through a physiotherapist or certified personal trainer.
Supportive Braces and Proper Equipment
If you’ve had knee pain in the past, investing in a good brace to wear while snowboarding can help prevent a serious injury. A knee brace can keep your knee joint stabilised and supported, ultimately preventing any twist or torque from putting too much pressure on your knee.
Getting your bindings serviced through a professional every year is key as well. Poorly adjusted bindings are one of the leading causes of knee injuries while snowboarding. It’s also key to self-test your bindings before heading on the slopes every day. If properly adjusted, both the heel and the toe should slip out easily when you test them.
Although knee injuries can be scary, they are by no means the end of your snowboarding career. Through preventative measures and proper post-injury rehabilitation, you can continue to enjoy the slopes throughout your life.
Book an appointment at Physio Inq today to nip those knee issues in the bud.