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Wrist Guards for Snowboarders - Are they necessary?

Winter Sports was part of Rhonda Albom's life as her two girls are both former New Zealand junior national ski/snowboard champions

Snowboarders: Do you wear wrist guards?

Wrist guards for snowboarders seem to be an ongoing debate with no clear answer. One article will tell you that only beginners need them as they don't yet now how to fall. Another article will inform you that wrist guards are important for racers or park riders. And if you look hard enough you can find information telling you it is the intermediate riders that need protection, the athletes that are confident long before they should be.

On the day I wrote the first draft of this article, I was at a New Zealand ski slope. As the morning progressed, a 12-year-old rider snapped his wrist and, less than an hour later, an Olympic snowboarder joined him in the ski patrol medical center. Both were treated for freshly broken wrists.

This begs the question, are wrist guard for snowboarders necessary? There are compelling arguments on both sides. Some say they prevent serious injuries; others say they simply protect the wrist joint while shifting the break higher up the arm. Those in favor of using the safety gear will add that the wrist is far more complex than the forearm, therefore more difficult to repair.


How important is it to protect your wrists while snowboarding?

From the Scottish Snow Sports Safety Study:

  • 25% of all snowboard injuries affect the wrist joint
  • 70% of all snowboard related wrist injuries were fractures (broken bones)
  • There are an estimated 95,000 wrist fractures each year among snowboarders worldwide.

From the Colorado Snowboard Injury Survey:

  • Snowboarders wearing wrist guards are half as likely to injure their wrists as snowboarders not wearing them.

So the choice is obvious, all snowboarders wear this safety gear, right?

Wrong, worldwide, only about 10% of snowboarders wear them. To the non-athlete, this may not make any sense at all, but snowboarders have definite opinions on this topic. Many will offer strong arguments not to wear the wrist guards. Many who start out wearing them, stop at some point.


Learning the Proper way to Fall is only Part of the Solution

Take a look at the photo. The snowboarder is a solid rider who also practices judo. She knows how to fall. However, with feet bound in place, instinct takes over and look at the awkward way the snowboarder puts down her hand. (Luckily there was no snap).

This Snowboarder Looks Like He Knows How to Fall to Protect his Wrists

This Snowboarder Looks Like He Landed Wrong on his Wrists

Our Favorite Snowboarding Wrist Guards

Watch This Guy Break His Wrist - *Be warned, and don't watch if it will upset you.

© 2009 Rhonda Albom

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Anything Else to Add? - All comments welcome

Daryl on November 17, 2016:

If you fall hard enough nothing will save you except your instincts! I teach riders and always preach don't reach. Hug yourself love yourself. Accidents happen but if you land on your hand stupidly it will break with or without guards.

Douglas Holberger on September 11, 2016:

This coming winter will he my second snowboard season. I have never worn wrist gaurds. Should I?

Douglas Holberger on September 11, 2016:

This coming winter will he my second snowboard season. I have never worn wrist gaurds. Should I?

anonymous on March 02, 2014:

i decided not to buy wrist guards for my first time snowboarding, infact first time on snow, despite being advised i though , nahh im only going for a week i'll be fine. spent the first day on the greens getting used to the board and eventually picked it up quite easily so i moved on to some bigger runs. anyway, day three comes along, im going down a steep blue, pick up too much speed, fall backwards land on my wrist, it's dislocated with 2 fractures and i am now waiting for surgery. im getting a plate put in. because of this, i will definitley never go again without wrist guards even though the docs said they wouldnt have done much for me because the impact was huge.

anonymous on February 24, 2014:

as a snowboarder I say were one

anonymous on February 21, 2014:

i really enjoy

anonymous on August 13, 2013:

I play volleyball for a competitive team and i am not willing to bench out matches during the rest of the season because i fell while snowboarding and hurt my wrist. So for me wrist gards are a must cuz they are additional protection against fractures and what not

anonymous on June 10, 2013:

I have fractured both scaphoids. I have also hairline fractured both radii. That's four incidents, four casts, with at least 4 weeks of atrophy per recovery. Months of strength training follow each recovery. Just wear the guards. If you think casts are cool look up the materials online and DIY one. Don't hurt yourself just for the cast.

anonymous on January 21, 2013:

I rather have arm fracture than a wrist fracture

anonymous on January 20, 2013:

bob says

anonymous on January 19, 2013:

I don't care what others do, but I'm 58 (read:brittle bones) and do bumps, jumps and trees, and can't fly an airliner with a cast on my wrist. It's simple: my mittens have built-in wrist protection.

anonymous on November 07, 2012:

I fell while wearing wrist guards and ended up with a simple fracture in my scaphoid. The doctors said the only thing that prevented it from being a compound or worse fracture was the wrist guards. So now I always wear them!

anonymous on November 05, 2012:

if you've ever had a scaphoid fracture, you do not want to go snowboarding without wrist guards. never again. you have the choice: either wear those uncomfortable wrist guards while boarding, or have a cast around your arm for 3 month when you break your scaphoid...

i definitely go with wrist guards

anonymous on October 29, 2012:

I hate wearing them but, like a helmet, they make me feel safer and so I go faster and ride better.

anonymous on October 02, 2012:

I have been riding for 13 years and I wear gloves with wrist guards built-in. They are comfortable, warm, and easy to wear, and they have saved me many times. They are designed by a doctor specifically to absorb the force of the fall, using flex at the wrist joint. Thus the name, Flexmeters.

I also sell them on my website.There are Flexmeters to wear under your own gloves and for skateboarding and inline skating too.

anonymous on May 23, 2012:

I say that individual stories and opinions really mean not much until you put all the stories togehter, do some numbers and then call it evidence. We've all heard about the grandfather who smoked 2 packs a day until he was 90- this isn't evidence that smoking isn't bad for you. For the record I think wrist guards protect wrists with no significant increase to other injuries, because I've looked at the evidence :)

anonymous on March 05, 2012:

The first time I went out, I broke my left wrist. 2 years later, I still have pain and swelling in my wrist. I have residual tendonitis and stress fractures left over from the initial break. A combination of switching from toe side to heel side and icy conditions made me fall, and I broke my growth plate. Unfortunately, surgeons don't like to operate on growth plates because of the risk for more damage. So, I have to wait 2 more years for my growth plates to close so that the pain is gone. Meanwhile, I can't skate, snowboard, play instruments, do push ups or anything that puts pressure on my wrist. So be cautious and wear wrist guards, at least until you get the hang of the basics!

anonymous on February 19, 2012:

I came close to seriously hurting my wrist on a jump. I plan on getting wrist guards for my next trip!

anonymous on February 11, 2012:

i broke my left wrist in second day of snowboarding i will always wear guards hereafter

anonymous on January 14, 2012:

I have broke my left wrist twice now, 12 years apart, i'm not doing it again, i'm getting wrist guards.

anonymous on January 12, 2012:

I just broke my wrist snowboarding and honestly, based on the fall I took, I feel that I would have spared myself had I been wearing guards

anonymous on January 04, 2012:

yes definately. the first day i broke both of my wrists.. not kidding and it was very painful.

anonymous on December 31, 2011:


anonymous on December 25, 2011:

yesterday was my first day snowboarding and I loved it ! Up until I catch an edge on a little piece of ice & fracture my right wrist. will be searching for the best wrist guards soon , not worth the cast on for a month ! GET WRISTGUARDS.

anonymous on November 28, 2011:

I have been snowboarding for 17 years. I've had lots of experience on the snow having lived in Utah and been a snowboard instructor at Several Resorts. I have had multiple fractured wrists from riding in the terrain park---one shattered wrist which ended in titanium plates and screws. My injuries are not due to lack of experience at all (perhaps accident prone thrill seeker) sure. The point is, yes. An injury may occur further up the arm, but if you are taking the risks involved with the sport, you ought to wear protection. Whether you are a beginner, or expert, the risk is there because of the nature of the snowboarding stance being side ways. When you fall, the arm is the instinctual reaction to protect the face/head. Bottom line, I wear wrist guards. Didn't used to until multiple wrist fractures. Since wearing them, I haven't had any fractures in years. Knock on wood. If you are a beginner, I highly recommend them, along with lessons. Catching an edge on your snowboard will happen in the beginning, no doubt. So wear your protection, be safe and most of all, Have Fun!

anonymous on October 23, 2011:

I wear wrist guards, and I wish I did before. Two seasons ago a ended up shattering my hand, wrist, and arm. It took me months to recover... Spend thirty seconds putting them on, on months in pain and recovery.

anonymous on October 18, 2011:

I alway meant to get wrist guards but never got round to it. One bad break two operations, 6 months of phyiso and a wrist that will never work quite as well as it did means, I will never board without them again.

anonymous on October 12, 2011:

I've been snowboarding for two seasons. Well, one and a half because I had a bad fall last season and sprained my wrist. It killed the rest of my season, and nine weeks later I'm still in physio. I'll be wearing wrist guards next season for sure. I've heard there are some that are a bit flexible - that should prevent breaking forearm bones instead.

catbehaviors on May 07, 2011:

I don't snowboard, but wrist guards seem like the safer option to me! :)

sdtechteacher on April 27, 2011:

I don't snowboard, but I do rollerblade and my wristguards kept me out of the emergency room. When I saw how badly shattered the wristguards were after a fall where I literally flew through the air into gravel, I was so so grateful that it was the safety gear that was shattered and not my wrists.

David Stone from New York City on April 27, 2011:

If it were me, I'd probably wear them, but I don't think we should get into the game of telling others what to do as long as the risk are only to them. There are useless, unenforceable regulations around about everything. Why don't we just make the facts available and let adults decide for themselves for a change?

GrowWear on April 27, 2011:

...after they break or shatter their wrists, they'll wish they had worn protection.

anonymous on April 26, 2011:

I've been wearing wrist guards for over 13 years snowboarding, it took one instance where I forgot to put my wrist guards back on, and I shattered my wrist and broke my radius and ulna. Now I have a permanent reminder with a nice scare and titanium plate in my arm. I hope everyone, every parent who has a child start out in snowboarding makes it mandatory. The two months of hell I endured trying to recover cannot compare, that doesn't even include the months of physical therapy I'm going through.

anonymous on April 07, 2011:

I wear them now--not having so my first 3 seasons on the slopes. Good thing, too, cause I took a spill in Vail last month that would have surely resulted in a broken wrist--when all I ended up with is a small bruise under the top of the guard. Not bad at all for a $25 investment.

anonymous on March 21, 2011:

The dickens

Recession Proof2 on February 22, 2011:

I wish I would have worn them when I hurt my wrist. But I still don't.

anonymous on January 12, 2011:

My two sons 11 and 13 will be wearing wristguards this year. If they get injured it will be MY FAULT, I am thier father and my job is to protect them. Think about that. If your kid gets hurt and YOU were smart enough to realize they need to wear wrist guards who would you blame - your kid, or yourself. You made them wear a helmet and you wear one yourself, why would you not protect thier wrists. ESPECIALLY when they play other sports that they NEED thier wrists. If my boys couldn't play baseball or... don't let your kids tell you it's not cool. Present the facts, and stand strong. The wrist guards come integrated with gloves, no one will know and after a while it will be like the helment. Intelligent.

BrickHouseFabrics on January 09, 2011:


anonymous on December 19, 2010:

I don't wear it because i just started snowboarding 2 days ago, not knowing anything about snowboarding other then how to stop , do novice turns and etc, but now remembering my friend who snowboard for more then 3 years breaking this arm and wrist, damn, it's time for me to go shop for wrist guards.

anonymous on December 19, 2010:

i fractured my wrist last year... and 2 days ago i twisted the same wrist... time to wear wrist guards...

anonymous on December 08, 2010:

They're not so expensive...might give them a try

anonymous on December 08, 2010:

They hardly affect your riding ability, and any bit of protection offered when you have a big fall should be welcomed.

Joe McGuire on November 28, 2010:

As a semi avid rider I injured my wrist while learning (I'm still a novice so I'm actually still learning) and it took months to heal. I wore a brace while it was healing, I'm not sure what I actually did as I don't go to the doctor but it wasn't that bad. I will probably wear braces from now on.

Magicality LM on September 20, 2010:

I wear wrist guards & a helmet ... i know some other boarders who stand by not wearing them, I know others who wear knee protection ...

julieannbrady on September 12, 2010:

OMG, yes -- and they should wear full body armor too!!! ;)

anonymous on April 03, 2010:

at a beginer leve

thisismatt on February 27, 2010:

Now here is the major topic - They don't wear wristguards, but neither do skateboarders, same general type of sport if you ask me - That said I do believe if wrist injuries are that high, Possibly because of the way people stop themselves on a snowboard, then they should be wearing wristguards.

anonymous on January 22, 2010:

i never wore a wrist brace a day of my life, all was good. 1 month ago i fell off a rail and fractured both wrists and had to get surgery on both. now i got casts on for 3 more weeks and will have plates and screws for the rest of my life. NOT WORTH IT

anonymous on January 13, 2010:

Always wear them with crash pants, knee and elbow pads and a helmet and research, and trust me experience says you should, The thing is no-one can tell you are wearing them if its about looking cool, except in the morning or evening when you get changed, so whats the issue.

anonymous on January 11, 2010:

Wear them all the the time!

anonymous on December 30, 2009:

it's stupid to risk injury.

anonymous on November 30, 2009:

Absolutely! My 13 year old foster son broke his wrist last season - he slipped on a rail and came down right on his wrist - SNAP !!! He had to wear 3 different casts as it healed. He was unable to play baseball in the spring because of it. It's not worth taking the chance.

anonymous on November 18, 2009:

Why break it when it so easy to save it

anonymous on October 26, 2009:

thought helmets wern't cool and wristguards no use. Seriously changed my mind after i broke my wrist and my girlfriend smashed her head. Go for POC helmets and Flexmeter Guards. Only the best will do now.

anonymous on October 19, 2009:

I broke my wrist in my first week snowboarding and have had similar accidents since, and not broken anything.

anonymous on October 01, 2009:

I wore wrist guards and still managed to injure my wrist some how.

Mickie Gee on September 03, 2009:

Wear those guards. I do not snowboard, but I ski and always wear my helmet. I am older and wiser than most snowboarders.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on September 02, 2009:

I agree that snowboarders should wear wrist guards to prevent injury

missbat on August 18, 2009:

Wrist guards are a must! People don't seem to understand that they will always instinctively put their hands down to break their fall. And while some are lucky others aren't and end up with a broken wrist or worse. An ounce of prevention makes all the difference.

Spook LM on August 16, 2009:

Sounds sensible and I would. Reminds me of when helmets first came into cricket, the old guard thought it was sissy. Now everybody wears them. Perhaps it's the same in this sport?

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