Essentials: Another Form of Pain Prevention

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Bodywork: Fitness for the Outside Athlete, November 1996

Essentials: Another Form of Pain Prevention
By Sarah Bowen Shea

Although a rigorous preseason training regimen may take care of your muscular woes, it won't prevent another kind of pain--that which comes from impact. Thus snowboarding's newest trend: helmets. "It may seem a bit geeky," admits Amy Guras, owner of A Racer's Edge in Breckenridge, Colorado, "but it's actually the expert boarders bombing down tree runs who are leading the headgear charge." Helmets are slowly being adopted by boarders of all abilities. "You can find hard surfaces on any slope from a bunny run to the toughest double blacks," says Kevin Delaney, director of Aspen's snowboarding school. "There are hard rocks, hard trees, hard ski towers, even hardpacked snow."

Lightweight, padded helmets made for skiing are the preferred headgear. Ear cutouts let you hear slope traffic, while an extended back provides added protection. Also, unlike most bike helmets, which by design get crushed upon impact, ski-specific helmets have polycarbonate-and-Kevlar shells made to withstand numerous crashes. Guras recommends ones by Boeri ($80-$260, 800-394-6741), Briko (Windshape World Cup Duo pictured, $200, 800-462-7456), and Jofa ($90-$125, 800-223-4448).

Of course, if you're using your head to the extent of wearing a helmet, you'll probably already have wristguards, since they can prevent snowboarding's most common injuries--wrist and finger sprains. Extra-large in-line skating wristguards worn over your gloves offer excellent collision protection. Or try special gloves or mittens with built-in supports. Level Gloves offers models such as the Half Pipe (pictured, $113), with removable, two-piece, hinged protection ($78-$156, 541-386-2880). For the dedicated snowboarder there are also Stabilizer gloves from Stick It ($40, 800-472-6363), which feature a permanent urethane brace. Protection can be bulky, says Delaney, "But surround yourself with the safe stuff and you'll be able to walk away to another day of boarding."

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