Snowboarding has become an increasingly popular sport. Injuries from snowboarding are also on the increase. Most of the injuries are to the arms, caused by falls. About 20 percent of the accidents affect the legs. Half of these occur in the lead foot. Most leg injuries are a result of wearing soft boots.
The lead foot absorbs most of the physical stress that comes with snowboarding. This can result in leg, ankle, and foot injuries. Rigid snowboard boots allow only a small amount of ankle motion. This limits how much the muscles can contract and protects the lower leg from overuse. Soft boots don't offer this kind of protection.
Snowboarding injuries don't just happen with overuse. Damage to the lower leg can also occur from poorly fitted equipment. Boots that are too big allow the muscles to come in contact with the stiff upper boot. The slicing motion of the boot back and forth against the muscle can cause a condition called compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome occurs when injury to a confined area, or compartment, causes a buildup of swelling. Along with the fluid build-up, there is decreased circulation to muscles and nerves in the area.
Compartment syndromes are very painful. These must be treated right away to save the muscles. Surgery to release the lining of the compartment around the muscles is needed. These kinds of injuries can be prevented in snowboarders with proper size and use of equipment. Rigid boots that fit correctly are essential in both snowboarding and downhill skiing. Changes in the way boots are made may also help.Joseph A. Assenmacher, MD, and Robert E. Hunter, MD. Acute Nonexertional Lateral Compartment Syndrome from Snowboarding. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. September/October 2002. Vol. 30. No. 5. Pp. 754-756.