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What's safer: Skiing or snowboarding?

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Would you rather hurt your knee or your wrist on the slopes? If you're still undecided on whether you want to spend the rest of your life as a skier or snowboarder, you might want to ask yourself that question.

Just as you might think, skiers tend to have more knee injuries and snowboarders hurt their wrists more often, according to the chief of sports medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital Thomas Gill. It's simple physics, Gill said in a recent Boston Globe piece.

Gill explains that by strapping a long plank to each foot and wearing stiff boots that keep the ankles fixed, "all that force gets transmitted up to the knee'' when the ski rotates or twists. As ski boots and bindings have become more rigid, the knees have become the major point of rotation, which puts tremendous torque on them.

With snowboarding, the feet are strapped to a single plank in parallel, so the knees experience less torque. Although snowboarding tends to attract a younger crowd, the sport can actually be a safer alternative for adults worried about damaging their joints. The downside, Gill says, is that snowboarders are more likely to hurt their arms or fracture wrists when they reach out to break a fall, or injure their spines when they fall backward. Wearing wrist guards is a good preventive measure.

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