By Charnicia E. Huggins
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Snowboarders who use wrist
guards to prevent hand injuries may unwittingly increase their
risk of injuring their elbow, upper arm or shoulder, new study
findings, reported by researchers in Canada, show.
“The results were consistent in showing that wrist guards
were protective for hand-forearm injuries but possibly harmful
for elbow-shoulder injuries,” Dr. Brent Hagel, of the
University of Alberta in Edmonton, and colleagues write in
American Journal of Epidemiology.
They investigated the effect of wrist guards on injuries to
the upper extremity — including the forearm, upper arm, wrist,
shoulder, hand and elbow — in a study of 1,066 snowboarders
who reported such injuries to the ski patrol during the
2001-2002 ski season. For comparison, the study also included
970 snowboarders who did not experience injuries to their upper
Fractures were the most commonly reported injury to the
upper extremity. Seventy-nine percent of injuries to the
forearm were fractures, as were 47 percent of upper arm
injuries and 47 percent of wrist injuries. Half of the hand
injuries were sprains, however, as were 45 percent of injuries
to the wrist and nearly 24 percent of elbow injuries. Other
less common injuries included bruises and shoulder, elbow and
Altogether, the use of wrist guards was associated with an
85 percent reduced risk of injury to the hand, wrist or
forearm, the investigators report.
But a “disturbing finding,” although not statistically
significant, was that wrist guard use was also associated with
a more than two-fold increased risk of injury to the elbow,
upper arm or shoulder, Hagel and colleagues note.
Commenting on the study, Dr. William O. Roberts, of the
University of Minnesota School of Medicine, told Reuters Health
that despite the increased risk of injury to some regions of
the body, “it is probably still worth wearing wrist guards.”
Still, “you shouldn’t increase the risk of what you’re
doing because you’re wearing wrist guards,” he added,
explaining that the higher and the farther snowboarders attempt
to jump, the more they increase their risk of injury.
As indicated by Hagel’s findings, a wrist guard “protects
your wrist, but it doesn’t protect your elbow and shoulder,”
said Roberts, the immediate past president of the Indianapolis,
Indiana-based American College of Sports Medicine.
SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology, July 15, 2005.