Snowboard wrist guards are an essential piece of kit if you are a beginner, if you an aggressive park rider determined to master the latest trick, stunt or manoeuvre, if you have weak wrists or if you have previously suffered a wrist injury or break. If you want to master snowboarding, it is inevitable you will take a few tumbles. The 'Face Plant' is a classic almost iconic fall learned very quickly by most beginners. It happens when you trip or catch the toe edge of your snowboard whilst riding on heel edge. At almost lightening quick speed you will be slammed face first into the snow.
1) Learn Not to Fall Over!
This is easier said than done but, even if you could manage it, not falling over would hinder your progression in the sport. It is only by making mistakes and falling over that you will learn and improve. If you take no risks you will make no progress. No pain, no gain.
2) Learn How to Fall Properly.
This is seriously good advice and not a flippant remark like the previous suggestion. After a few painful face plants you will learn to detect the warning signs and, if you cannot prevent the face plant, you should at least be able to protect yourself from the pain of the inevitable splat. The natural human reaction is to put your hands out to break your fall but please try not to do this. Sometimes it works but on other occasions you can easily break your wrists instead, even if you are wearing wrist guards. The best way to protect yourself is, upon the first sign of a face plant, aim to slam your knees down and forwards into the snow as quickly as you can. Your knees are much more capable of breaking your fall than your wrists. Inevitably, your upper body will catapult towards the snow too but your knees will have absorbed much of the impact. Before your upper body hits the snow, again resist the temptation to break your fall with your hands. Instead, fold your arms across your chest and allow your forearms to break the remainder of your fall. Your forearms will protect your rib cage - there is nothing worse than the pain of a broken rib - and spread the impact out over a much broader area. You may end up winded but you would be extremely unlucky if you broke a bone by following this advice.
This picture series is obviously a set up and it never works as smoothly as this in the real world but you get the general idea. Ideally he needed to get his arms folded across his chest but at least his knees hit first and his forearms and not his wrists broke the rest of his fall.
This guy almost gets it right too, at least one of his forearms protected his chest and broke his fall:
This fall was at much higher speed but you can see he got his knees down first and his forearms, not his hands are going to hit the snow next. It would be better if his arms were folded across his chest.
3) Wear Knee pads.
Yes, you read this right. I said 'knee pads' not wrist guards. This is because your knees and not your wrists should be used to break your fall. Wearing knee pads will give you the confidence to slam your knees quickly into the snow to break your fall. They also make it much more comfortable when kneeling down on the piste waiting for your mates! Most people wear their knee pads under their snowboard pants so, if you do the same, no one except you will know you are wearing them.
4) Wear Wrist Guards.
Sometimes, despite best intentions, it is impossible to overcome the temptation to break your fall by putting a hand out. Under this circumstance, a good pair of wrist guards will certainly help prevent injury. Wrist guards are worn by skate boarders, in line skaters and roller derby players for exactly the same reason. If they work on concrete, they certainly work on snow but even with wrist guards on, people can still break a wrist. Nothing is 100% guaranteed. All I can advise you is how to minimise the risk and wearing wrist guards is an excellent way to minimise the possibility or a broken wrist.
You know, sometimes you just have to put a hand down - either to save your face or your ass:
Other times, you should really put two hands down:
But most of the time it is simply cool to put a hand down:
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