is snowboarding bad for your knees?

Is Snowboarding Bad for Your Knees? [Is Skiing Worse?]

by Fraser

They say laughter is the best medicine. But when it comes to snowboarding, it’ll take more than a chuckle to keep my crusty old knees in the game!

Let’s face it, our knees didn’t sign up for this.

From the dawn of time, they’ve been simple flex-and-extend kinds of guys. Now suddenly, we’re forcing them into a world of twists, turns, and 360-degree spins. It’s like expecting your grandma to start breakdancing.

But is snowboarding bad for your knees?

Let’s take a look!

Snowboarding vs. Knees: The Cold, Hard Stats

First things first: snowboarding isn’t inherently bad for your knees. But it’s like letting a bull loose in a china shop – there’s a lot of potential for things to go wrong.

One study from the Western Journal of Medicine showed that while knee injuries are less common in snowboarding than in skiing, when they do occur, they tend to be more severe.


This got me thinking, is snowboarding better for your knees than skiing? 

Is Skiing or Snowboarding Easier On Knees?

Skiing’s frontal stance and the independent movement of each leg can put a lot of strain on the knees. When a skier falls, a twisting force is directly transferred to the knees. This can lead to ACL tears, or other ligament damage. The bindings may release upon a fall, but not always, leaving the knees vulnerable.

Conversely, snowboarders have their feet strapped to a single board. While this might sound like a recipe for twisted joints, statistics suggest otherwise. Knee injuries make up just 17% of injuries in snowboarders, against an impressive 39% in skiers.

Surprisingly, the locked feet position in snowboarding reduces the twisting force exerted on knees. Instead, the pressure shifts to the ankles and the upper body during a tumble.

The Verdict

If your knees could vote, they’d probably opt for a snowboard over a pair of skis.

However, regardless of whether you’re team ski or team snowboard, the key to happy knees lies in proper conditioning, appropriate gear, and taking a breather when your body asks for it. After all, the slopes aren’t going anywhere!

Does Ability Reduce The Risk of Knee Injury?

In short – yes.

The American Journal of Sports Medicine demonstrated a significantly higher injury rate in snowboarding beginners than ski beginners. Mostly arm injuries, rather than knee. 

The same study demonstrated a huge drop in injury rates for snowboarders once their ability levels increase. Sadly, when experienced snowboarders do get injured, the severity is often much worse.

This is particularly true of jump-related knee injuries!

On the bright-side, the use of protective gear increased with skill level, which partly explains the drastically reduced injury levels. 

>> Essential Snowboarding Protective Gear

How Most Snowboarding Knee Injuries Occur

1. The Ligament Twister

While knee injuries are less common in snowboarding than skiing, it doesn’t mean they don’t happen. 

Part of the issue lies in the nature of snowboarding. Your feet are strapped onto one board, and your body twists and turns while your feet…well, don’t.

It’s the twist that really does it. The result? You might overtax the ligaments in your knees, causing injuries like a torn ACL or MCL.

2. A Battle with Gravity

Studies have shown that compressive landings (hitting the knuckle or taking it to the flats) are a common cause of ACL injuries – without requiring any twisting or rotation. 

These are particularly painful injuries and often require surgery. 

3. Wipeouts

Now, let’s talk about falls.

No one intends to wipe out, but on the slopes, gravity has a twisted sense of humor.

The thing is, when a skier falls, they can release their skis (if they’re lucky).

When a snowboarder falls, the board is still attached, making the knees more vulnerable. The board can drag behind or flex in unusual patterns, putting abnormal pressure on the knees. 

Preserving Your Knees: No Laughing Matter

Despite all of this, don’t let your knees talk you out of an adventure.

Strengthening your leg muscles, learning proper techniques, and wearing appropriate gear can all help keep those knees in tip-top shape. And remember, there’s no shame in taking a break. 

Here’s a few ways to reduce the risk of knee injury while snowboarding:

1. Gear Up

Make sure you’re wearing the right protective gear. This includes supportive snowboard boots. Padding or knee guards can offer additional protection, especially when you’re learning new tricks or riding rough terrain.

2. Get in Shape

A strong body is less prone to injury; this is particularly true when it comes to snowboarding. Strengthen your leg muscles, especially your quads and hamstrings. Squats, lunges, and leg curls are your friend (sorry). 

3. Learn Proper Techniques

For example, when you’re carving, bending your knees and keeping your weight centered helps to absorb shocks and prevent injury. Consider getting additional lessons to master the right techniques.

4. Warm Up and Stretch

Give your body a chance to warm up with some light cardio exercises. Follow up with these stretching exercises to keep your muscles flexible and less prone to injury.

5. Rest and Recover

Don’t ignore fatigue. Your risk of injury increases when your body is tired, as it compromises your form and balance. 

6. Hydrate and Nourish

Hydration (not beer) and proper nutrition go a long way in maintaining muscle health and preventing injuries. 

7. Know Your Limits

There’s a fine line between pushing your limits and being reckless. Understand your skill level and don’t attempt advanced tricks before you’re ready.

Conclusion - Is Snowboarding Bad For Your Knees?

In conclusion, while snowboarding poses its unique challenges and risks to our trusty knees, it’s not inherently “bad” for them.

The notion of snowboarding being a knee-wrecker often arises from improper technique, inadequate preparation, and pushing your limits without appropriate conditioning.

Yes, your knees might take a beating in a wipeout or from repetitive twisting, but with proper training, protective gear, and body awareness, you can safeguard them against injury.

So, rather than labelling snowboarding the enemy, simply treat it with a healthy dose of respect and preparation,. Your knees might just thank you in the long run!

Happy riding. 

Oh… and wear a helmet

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