Snowboarding wrist injuries top ER traffic |

Snowboarding wrist injuries top ER traffic

While locals and tourists alike waited patiently, and in many cases not so patiently, for a soft powdery snowfall, Tahoe Forest Hospital Emergency Room staff and local fire/rescue personnel were busy for the past few weeks taking care of typical injuries for hard-pack ski conditions.

Emergency personnel report ski injuries comparable to most years, but many more wrist and shoulder injuries than usual for this time of year.

“Typical with hard-pack snow fall, you see a lot of wrist injuries, especially with snowboarders,” said Joseph Ferrerra, director of public relations for TFH. “But that’s common every year.

“We’re not seeing the real detrimental head injuries from people skiing into trees because people aren’t tree skiing with so little snow.”

Ferrara, who met with the ER staff last week, said there aren’t as many knee injuries or tibia-fibula fractures that are common with powder skiing.

“We’re always busy this time of year,” he said. “These are normal injuries for having a packed snow base. But are we seeing more injuries than any other year – no.”

He said he thought that perhaps with less skiers, maybe there is a higher percentage of injuries.

“But the numbers don’t show that at all,” he said.

Hospital staff can somewhat mentally prepare for what kind of ski injuries they will be treating based on the snow conditions.

“We can almost predict based on what the snow looks like what kind of injuries there are going to be,” TFH Emergency Room doctor Peter Shieldhouse said.

“This year so far, we’ve been seeing a lot of broken wrists. Tomorrow (Wednesday), with wet deep snow, we’ll see the knee injuries.”

Shieldhouse said that more than 90 percent of the wrist injuries are from snowboarders falling, and catching themselves with their hands on the hard-pack surface. When snow conditions are soft, the hospital sees fewer broken wrists.

According to TFH records, the hospital typically sees approximately 400 broken wrists in a six month period during ski season. Over the holidays this year, the hospital treated 153 wrist fractures between Dec. 18 and Jan. 3.

Wrist fractures are the most common injury the ER staff treats, said Shieldhouse. They also see a lot of fractured clavicles and dislocated shoulders.

To TFH staff, “hospital conditions equal good weather and bad snow.”

Truckee Fire Protection District Lt. Craig Harvey said he has noticed more head injuries with abrasions than anything else for ambulance transport patients from the hard-pack conditions, but the number of ski injuries they have responded to in the last month is not more than usual for this time of year.

“Usually we transport more, because usually there’s more skiers,” he said. They haven’t seen as many serious injuries, possibly because the extreme skiing terrain at most of the resorts is still closed.

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