Dr. George: Hidden Injuries

“It happened during my last day of four continuous weeks of training at Mt. Hood, Oregon. We had excellent conditions, blue skies, and a perfectly shaped pipe. I was very motivated because it was my first time filming for a snowboard video, and everything was going well, but not for long.

“It always seems like you get hurt on your last jump. Ross, the camera guy, was so surprised when I did a six-foot-plus frontside Indy that he was unable to get it on tape. “Do it exactly like that again,” he said. This is a sentence most snowboarders hate to hear. It happened just as I expected, I missed the landing and smashed my elbow directly on the coping of the pipe. It hurt like hell, but since I could move it, I figured I was okay. Wrong. The next day my elbow was swollen like a blue pumpkin and I couldn't move it. A physiotherapist diagnosed it as a severe soft-tissue contusion. This sounded like no big deal to me, and since most medical treatment in the States comes directly out of your own pocket, I decided against getting X-rays. That's where I blew it.

“When I returned to Munich five weeks later, my elbow still wasn't better. Whenever I put pressure on it or tried to straighten it, there was tons of pain, that's when I finally decided to go to a specialist. He took an X-ray and gave me the bad news. The bone in my joint was chipped and it should have been operated on immediately after the accident. The only thing the specialist could do was send me to physiotherapy to try to recover as much movement as possible. He also guaranteed me that I would have arthritis in twenty years.

“A year later, I don't really have any problems putting pressure on my elbow, but I can't straighten it 100 percent anymore. So, I really advise all you people out there to check with a specialist right away if you experience any pain. Immediate treatment might stop you from snowboarding for a while, but may save you a lot of pain in the future.” Nicola Thost



High-impact forces and strains that occur during an injury can exceed the natural range of motion of an articulation (a joint or junction between bones or cartilage) and the strength of normal bones. This can lead to minor or major injuries. But how can you estimate how severe an injury is?

Severe injuries are usually associated with acute pain, which doesn't fully resolve itself in a short period of time. Fractures and ligament sprains are often accompanied by rapid swelling and motion is painful and limited. Fractures and dislocations can create a misalignment of a body part, which is one of the reasons these injuries need immediate medical attention.

Minor injuries such as distortions and bruises usually are accompanied by slight pain and sometimes swelling, which usually goes away after two to three days. If pain persists or if the injured body part can't be freely moved or weighted, a doctor's visit is recommended to avoid serious long-term damage. Injuries, even if they are minor, should not be underestimated. Immediate and proper treatment can limit the damage and help speed up the healing process.

So in case of an injury, the following first-aid tips help.

R Rest

I Ice

C Compression

E Elevation

Why Ice?

During sport injuries and accidents small blood vessels are destroyed. Ice causes a constriction of these vessels so that less blood can pour out into the soft tissue. Using RICE, as a first-aid treatment, helps to minimize the swelling caused by bleeding; minimized bleeding means less related swelling and less scar-tissue formation within the injured area. With the use of RICE, the healing and rehabilitation process is faster.



•Apply ice for> twenty minutes, followed by a two hour

pause; repeat often for two days.

•Wait until the injury is fully healed before going snowboarding again.


•Never put ice directly on the skin.

•Never use heat on acute injuries.

•Never massage the acutely injured body regions.

This advice is good for any kind of sport-related injuries, including injuries from skateboarding, surfing, and mountain biking.

Dr. George Ahlbäumer is known as one of Europe's top orthopedic surgeons specializing in snowboard injuries, based at the Clinic Gut in the Center of Bone and Joint Surgery in the Swiss Alps of St. Moritz.