This is a two part blog I will be writing on the build up to the 2014 XXII Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia and the experience while I am there.
Right now I am writing this from the XGames in Aspen, Colorado. This will be my 4th Xgames and is definitely one of my favourite events to cover in the whole world. All of the best snowboarders, skiers and snowmobile athletes from around the globe are here to battle for medals and cash prizes. For some of the snowboarders I work with, it is also a great high profile event for them to do before they head to Sochi for the Winter Olympics in just over a week.
As well as being a spinal and sports injury physiotherapist at CHHP, I am fortunate to be physiotherapist for the Canadian National Snowboard Team in the discipline of Freestyle. As a passionate snowboarder, I have been lucky to travel the world working with some incredible snowboard athletes for the last 5 years. This season has been hectic but enjoyable: We were based a lot out of Colorado for training in December before we moved to Whistler for more training at Blackcomb in the new year. Last week we were in Quebec for the last Olympic qualifier which, was really busy with a lot athletes pushing hard for a spot on the Olympic Team.
Health & Performance in Snowboarding
The sport of freestyle snowboarding has been very progressive over the years. The risks are high when the riders throw themselves down kinked hand rails or 30 foot in the air often spinning 3 or 4 times round with 3 off axis flips – otherwise known as a ‘triple cork’. Four years ago this trick had not even been done and nowadays it is nearly always a must for a winning contest run. The best professionals have been competing for many years and are very skilled and equipped at judging their landing if they do go wrong in the air. Needless to say, I have dealt with a fair share of injuries in the sport over the years. People often ask me what is the most common injury encountered but this can be extremely variable across a competitive season.
The incidence of lower back pain seems to be on the rise due to the fact the riders keep going bigger and bigger and the enormous amount of load transferring up through the pelvis when landing jumps. If they land smoothly on the down slope, the load is a lot smaller than if they land awkwardly or overshoot onto the flat! The most important part in addressing this is technique and timing and on top of that we work hard at keeping all of the athletes spinal and global strength and stability as good as we can.
Naturally, one of the key focuses of the program is trying to keep the athletes performing consistently in competitions and remaining injury free. For this component, I work very closely with our Lead Strength & Conditioning coach: Matt Fisher and, Technical Coach: Chris Witwicki. Due to the dangerous nature of the sport, we don’t always have the luxury of athletes being ‘injury free’ so we are constantly adapting what we do. This is similar to other contact sports like Rugby. One of the riders we work closely with is Charles Reid who will be going to Olympics after making a solid return to competitive snowboarding having been off snow due to an ACL rupture for 9 months. He worked hard to get strong and worked very hard technically to catch up on the time he missed.
The athletes are constantly balancing having fun snowboarding with solid gym training, good recovery routines and any keeping on top of injury issues. The turnover between the major events is often slim and often they are back to back weeks involving crossing timezones. Therefore, it is important that we closely monitor the sleep quality of the athletes alongside their training regimes on and off snow.
From here we will travel to Austria for 4 days before we head as a team to Sochi. Austria will be a good time to get used to European time and some light training as the athletes lock in their last stages of preparation for the Winter Olympics.
Thanks for reading!
Rob Madden with Mark McMorris