The ‘should you wear a helmet?’ debate has been raging fiercely and relentlessly for a good few years now. But, is it just as important to wear a back protector?
Well, if you look at the stats then the most common injury to snowboarders is to the wrist and hand.This is for the obvious reason that when snowboarders fall, they fall forwards or backwards and with both feet attached to the snowboard, it is a natural reaction, especially with beginners, to extend the arms out as protection against the impact.
The next most common injury is to the head and neck, then the knees, followed by ankles and then back injuries. With back injuries so far down the pecking order it would be easy to dismiss paying vital beer money on a back protector, but although spinal injuries are rare they can be a lot more
In Snowboarding, as with all high impact sports, a lot of back injuries can be prevented by exercising regularly and stretching before hitting the slopes. But some back injuries, especially if you are hitting rails and kickers in the snow park, can only be prevented by body armour. When
trying out kickers for the first time the most common injury occurs when landing sideways with all the impact on your Coccyx and lower back.
Even without long lasting injury, this type of impact can be very painful and cause discomfort to the lower back for weeks if not months. A combination of protection shorts and a back protector would certainly help to prevent this and a must for those wanna-be and experienced park rats.
Recently, I have had the pleasure of working with professional athlete Jamie Barrow who is officially Britain’s fastest snowboarder. Jamie was part of the GB Boardercross team and was considered a young talent and one to look out for on the Olympic scene. But disaster struck when
Jamie had a devastating accident during a competition run and broke his back. Forever in pain,Jamie was forced to quit the GB team and now, still only 22, has forged a successful career in speed snowboarding, including snowboarding across a frozen lake with a jet powered backpack, and more recently, snowboarding at 125Kph while being towed behind an aircraft.
Jamie was wearing a back protector when he had his accident but if he wasn’t, the consequences would have been far much worse if not fatal.
As with any protective gear, do not skimp on cost and go for quality. Make sure the back protector is flexible and will protect the base of the neck as well as the Coccyx. Also make sure that you buy the right size and that it has shoulder straps as well as a waist band. Some back protectors are made from a hard plastic usually in the form of plates that overlap each other. Others are made from different forms of impact foam and are extremely lightweight, but the best types are usually a combination of both. Another great option is an impact top or vest that not only acts as protection to your upper body, but also as a mid layer of clothing.
Yes, a good back protector is expensive but maybe the question to ask is not can you afford to buy one, but can you afford not to buy one?
What do you think?
Mark is also the manager of Jamie Barrow (Britain’s fastest snowboarder)
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