Snowboard Concussion

This past weekend there was free snowboard rental at the Como Park ski hills in St. Paul. In this case, the ski hill is a part of the golf course, so you know it’s not anything too exotic. But Linus is a beginning snowboarder, and until this last weekend had not had a chance to ride a good quality snowboard. Plus, his friend Simon is taking lessons there and sort of knows the ropes, so I thought it was a good opportunity to introduce Linus to the activity.

I figured as long as it was free, and the hills were small, I might give it a try, too. I’ve never really snowboarded, nor have I downhill ski’d before. So Linus and I were both starting at square one on the baby hill. We both gradually improved, particularly when I finally asked a volunteer instructor, who looked about 14, how I should distribute my weight.

By the end of the day I was feeling kind of good about my growing snowboard prowess, despite the fact that Alison, the aforementioned instructor, called me “a real trooper”, which was somewhat deflating. Sometime after that happened, I found myself on the higher, steeper hill. It was practically the biggest hill there. I strapped into the board, and forced myself to shift my weight forward to my front leg. On the way down, I saw Linus and his friend Simon watching me go down a hill neither of them had attempted yet. That was a special moment for me. I’m almost 39, Linus almost 9. In two years, he’ll be that much more coordinated, that much more likely to try something new with friends rather than me, and I’ll be that much less likely to keep my balance, or not be quick enough, or just be…two years older. So my days of being able to amaze my son or daughter by doing something physical like jumping on a snowboard, or more important, to share and experience those activities with them, will gradually (or suddenly) fade away as the years go by.

So that first run was good. Second run, fine. Linus and Simon quickly lost interest in my Lifetime Moment and turned to head to the clubhouse. But no matter; I’m not exactly shredding the hill, or whatever it is the “cool” snowboarders say, but I’m making it down. I can snowboard! On a very small hill on a golf course!

On the third run I lost control and spun around so that I was going back-first down the mountain. I had no idea what I was supposed to do, though in retrospect leaning forward, towards the top of the hill, would have been a very good idea to help keep my leading edge from digging into the snow. But dig it did, and when it did my head slammed backwards into the snow faster than you can say “dumbass”. Actually much faster than that. Even though I hit relatively soft packed snow, I’ve never felt an impact quite like that. I don’t think I lost consciousness, but my eyes were closed as I slid the rest of the way down the hill on my back. When I sat up and opened my eyes I was looking back up the hill. Several feet up I saw my yellow hat lying in the snow, marking the site of my fall. Still trying to clear the cobwebs, I saw the yellow spot of my hat suddenly move, and realized a skier coming down the hill after me had picked it up and was skiing towards me. He deftly dropped it in my lap as he slid past, but right then I realized my glasses weren’t on my face, and were somewhere up on the hill near where my hat had been, which at that moment happened to be a spot crawling with skiers and snowboarders. I managed to stagger up the hill and find them intact, and then began the long trudge back to the clubhouse.

I was shaky the rest of Sunday. Monday, my ears are ringing and my head hurts and I’m just not completely normal at all. I consult WebMD. I consult with my company health center nurses. I consult my memory for knowledge gained from watching ESPN coverage of various concussions suffered by the likes of Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Corey Koskie and Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. All of these consultations lead me to believe I have suffered a mild concussion. True, the definitive consultation would have been with an MRI machine, but I’m not really willing to pay the deductible to learn I have something that they really can’t treat, and that rest alone will most likely help.

Tuesday sucked even worse than Monday. Head hurt. Ears rung. I moved at about 70% speed. Not much got done other than some contentious haggling in my fantasy basketball league about rules changes, most of which I honestly can’t even remember now.

Wednesday, though, I was much better. And today, my head and ears were better still. But my body itself, my hamstrings, my stomach, my neck, my ass, my back…all that still hurts.

All my current plans for impressing my kids involve the Wii we still don’t have.

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10 Responses to Snowboard Concussion

  1. Kieran says:

    As someone who is already 35, and whose son is only 2 (and whose daughter isn’t due for another month), this is a cautionary tale!

    Oddly enough, over the last few months, I spent a bunch of time at the gym with the idea that I could better try to keep up with the little ones that won’t be so little very ling. I see where that could get me. Damn.

  2. david says:

    I have limited my areas of sports competition with my children to those that rely solely on arm strength. If it involves running, skating, hand-eye coordination, or overall balance, I have conceded that my children have surpassed me. Generally, I don’t believe they think less of me.

    Two pieces of advice: 1) wear a helmet; and 2) skiing is much easier than snow boarding.

  3. kelly says:

    Snowboarding is a tough learning curve if you arent a seasoned skate boarder or surfer. The helmet is KEY…… cant say enough good things about a helmet. There are also forearm and butt guards you can get, that I have considered as I have eyed the half pipe and the big jumps….. injury sucks it!

    Doesnt sound like you’ll get on the board any time soon, but that leading edge disaster is ofter caused by not having your center of gravity low enough …. i.e. bending the knees. Bending the knees not so great because the other thing is does is speed you up radically. Also, when on a beginner board they shave off your edges so you are less likely to catch one, but the reverse often ends up being true. Because you can’t hold an edge, you are wobbly, and the newbie counteracts this by standing straight up and keeping their arms out.

    You and your family make it out to Tahoe, I’ll spring for your lodging, instruction, and a days worth of ski passes!!! Granted you have to sleep at my place, and get instruction from me 😉

  4. Dave Kingston says:

    Having just returned from a week at Vail and Beaver Creek, let me tell you that there is great fun to be had on large hills and plenty of good snow to go around.

    Why snowboarding? I’ve been skiing since I was a tot (so the decision was made for me) but I’ve seen lots of older people start snowboarding and get hurt really bad. I know you can get hurt really bad on skis as well, but almost all of the adult snowboarders I’ve seen get hurt ended up with head injuries. Plus, it seems to me that half of the fun is going as fast as you can, and skis are just faster than snowboards.

    You putting everyone up at Tahoe, Kelly?

  5. Mark says:

    Some experts in the field are suggesting protecting the jaw with a retainer like mouth guard that has proven to drastically reduce concussion in Pro football players. Go to for more info

  6. Steve C says:

    I’m a purist. I am a SKIER, not a snowboarder. Never have tried that abomination. Nevertheless, things seem to be the same: it’s always the last run that nails you. My first time skiing, I had some spectacular wipeouts. Then, on the last run, I just fell over wrong and stretched ligaments in my knee. In a cast for months. What can you do?

  7. bsiemers says:

    not to point out the obvious, but the serious injuries will always be on the last run of the day, since you are unlikely to get up and go again.

  8. pipelineblog says:

    I’m still recovering from DaveK’s use of the term “older people” in his comment above. I suppose I have to get used to that sort of thing.

    Why snowboarding? Well, I have difficulty with the whole two skis thing, mainly keeping my legs pointed in a coordinated direction. To be fair I’ve never tried that on downhill skis, only water skis and cross-country skis, but I found both to be difficult. But in all honesty, it just like since the kids were doing it I should try to do it. I didn’t really give it much more thought than that, and wasn’t aware of how brutal snowboard wipeouts can be compared to skiing wipeouts.

    Helmet will be worn if I ever get on a snowboard again, guaranteed.

  9. kelly says:

    The Tahoe offer has a special set of circumstances that Doug is familiar with, basically that the locale and fun is not the Disneyland vacation it sounds like it might be. I get so much snow, I use a bobcat to move it for example; or that it’s a one room cabin. But if you want to know more write to me.

  10. Noomps says:

    Thanks, I have more information in this blog .

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