Everyone has been asking me exactly how I broke my wrist. I would love to say it was while attempting to land a huge 720 Mute Grab off a jump in the Alpine Meadows Terrain Park. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite that spectacular. Here’s the whole story from start to finish:

The Fall
My friend Alice and I were coming down a downhill run that lead into a flat area. The flat area was followed by a small uphill “ramp” that curved left into another relatively flat fire trail before continuing downhill. These flat areas were not a problem for Alice, since she was on skis and had poles to propel her. However, every snowboarder will tell you that the worst thing about snowboarding is being stuck on a flat spot and having to pedal, or skate, until there is sufficient slope.

Seeking to avoid this, I picked up as much speed as I could out of the run. I was doing what was a very comfortable 25 miles per hour right behind a small 12-year-old girl on skis who was also picking up speed in a tucked position 10 feet ahead of me and to my right. Right before hitting the ramp, the girl swerved left directly in front of me causing me to brake. Unfortunately, I had too much forward momentum to brake as hard as I did causing me to flip over my high-side edge and face plant right onto the ramp’s negative slope. Seeking to save my face, I must have instinctively put my arms out instead of tucking. It didn’t really matter. I slid about 10 feet on my face and even swallowed a little snow in the process.


Yes, I managed to break my wrist on a negative slope!

After I stopped sliding, I heard the little girl yell, “close call” right before she continued to ski away. Yeah, it was a close call for her! So I am on my stomach with sharp pain on my right cheek and my left arm. I decided to examine my face first. I took off my right glove with my teeth and proceeded to touch my face looking for lacerations and what I expected, blood. However, after rubbing my face for 20 to 30 seconds, there was no blood to be found. I then focused on my arm. I turned around off my stomach and sat up.

My left arm sat motionless on my lap and I found it odd that over one minute had passed since the fall and the pain did not start to dissipate. In fact, it started to get worse. I pulled my glove off and as I did so I felt a very sharp pain on what felt like my forearm. I concluded at this point that I had broken it. I stared at it for about a minute. I tried to move my fingers and was able to do so, but I felt the arm getting heavier as blood flowed into it–it was beginning to swell. I reached down with my right arm and removed my snowboard, it was clear I wouldn’t be getting down the hill using my own power.

The Rescue
Alice had started skiing down the fire trail in front of me and was undoubtedly waiting for me. I tried to look over my left shoulder to see her and couldn’t. I moved to my left using my right arm and legs and was able to see her about 50 yards away, sitting down, eating a granola bar. About 5 minutes had passed since the fall and the pain was getting a lot worse. I tried to wave to her to come and she simply waved back. I waved again and motioned her to come, but it wasn’t clear that she understood me from that distance. I laid back and cradled my left arm with my right. I hoped she would come.

About 3 minutes later, I opened my eyes to see Alice standing above me. She asked me what was wrong and I said, “I am pretty sure I broke my arm. How is my face?” I was almost certain that my face was cut, bruised, or swollen. However, Alice’s reaction assured me that the arm and my ego were the only real injuries. She took off her skis and walked over to a nearby lift to get help. Ski Patrol came a few minutes later.

The Ski Patrol guy identified that the arm was broken by squeezing it in different places. When he touched the fractured bone I saw stars and almost passed out from the pain. My vision actually “whited out,” I’ve never experienced that before. Before the end of the day I would experience it several times. He proceeded to check my pulse on both sides of the break to make sure blood was flowing. He removed my watch, but not my wedding band, and gave it to Alice. Later on at the hospital the nurse had to yank my wedding band off my swollen finger–that sucked. He then placed a cardboard splint on my arm and we waited for the snowmobile.

When the snowmobile arrived, I was strapped onto a sled behind it and told to yell if the vibrations hurt too much. The worst part of the snowmobile ride was the gas fumes directly behind it which hit the sled directly. I would later kid with the Ski Patrol guys that if the accident doesn’t kill you the gas fumes will. The snowmobile could not take me down a sloped run, so on the way to the main lodge I was taken off the snowmobile and carried by a single Ski Patrolman on skis down a run. This was much better than the fumes, but short-lived. At the bottom of the run I was once again strapped to the snowmobile for the final stretch to the Ski Patrol clinic by the main lodge.

In the clinic, I saw four other arm or wrist injuries and two leg injuries just while I was there. Also, as I was leaving others were still being wheeled in. The pain in my arm was nearly unbearable, but it was comforting to my ego to see that I wasn’t the only one that went down.

The Hospital
Since the Ski Patrol clinic did not have an x-ray machine, I was told that going to a hospital to take a film and see how many bones in the wrist was broken before setting it in a cast. I waited in the clinic while Alice pulled the car around to pick me up. After getting to the truck, I waited while our other friends returned their rental gear. After taking them back to the cabin, we went to the Tahoe Forest Hospital emergency room.

It was amazing. The emergency room was filled with injured people from all the ski resorts: Squaw, Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl, Boreal, from everywhere. About ten arm injuries, surely most of them were sprained or broken wrists, and about five leg injuries being wheeled about in wheelchairs. According to nurses in the emergency room, the wrist injuries are snowboarders and knee injuries are the skiers.

Luckily, the x-ray of my wrist showed that I broke the radius bone only. This is good, because had I both radius and ulnar fractures I would have needed surgery to align and reduce the fractures in the wrist. Also, since this hospital sees about 1500 wrist fractures over the course of a winter the doctors there can obtain near anatomical alignment through manipulation. Even with local anesthetic, the setting of the wrist before the cast was put on hurt tremendously. After the cast was put on they took another x-ray to ensure that the bones were properly aligned. They then let me sign the “Wrist Fracture Wall of Fame.” There were already about seven hundred names on the board and after it was all over I added my own.

The Lesson
After it was all over I asked myself what I could have done differently to avoid the accident. Well, the truth is that had I been skiing instead of snowboarding I wouldn’t have picked up speed to avoid the flats. Also, had I picked up speed I would have been more likely to come to a controlled stop using two edges instead of one. I may actually sell my snowboard and start skiing again. We’ll see how I feel once the cast comes off. Or maybe I am full of shit. Perhaps, as my friend Larry says, “If you don’t bust yourself up every once in awhile, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough!”

6 Comments »

  1. I agree with Larry. Stop your whining and get back on the snowboard. Chicks dig scars and broken bones.

    #1 by Jimmy — March 1, 2005 @ 4:40 am

  2. Whining!? Dude, have you tried either sport? Last I remember you live in Florida–not much snow there. Here’s the rule: only snowboarders and/or skiers can give advice on this one. Truth is, skiing is just as fun as snowboarding and on double-black-diamond terrain it’s even funner–the more edges you have touching the snow the better. Life’s too short to get injured as easily as I did and besides, doing some Downhill Grand Slalom competitions on skis would be really fun!

    #2 by Nugget — March 1, 2005 @ 8:59 am

  3. Oh, and even if chicks dig broken bones, wives definitely don’t.

    #3 by Nugget — March 1, 2005 @ 9:02 am

  4. I’ve done my share of skiing, papi! I just try not to fall. And Florida has its hazards. Skin cancer, sharks, Colombian drug lords. It’s crazy here! And if your wife doesn’t like broken bones, take her back and get a new one! ( ;) j/k, Mama!)

    #4 by Jimmy — March 1, 2005 @ 9:38 am

  5. When do you get the cast off?

    #5 by Meerenai — March 1, 2005 @ 9:56 am

  6. Stick to the snowboard. Wrist/arm injuries are a LOT less annoying than knee surgery…

    #6 by Dave — March 1, 2005 @ 10:16 am

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