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How Do Wrist Guards Work | Do They Really Work?

Written by Colin Kint

What Is a Wrist Guard?

We usually try to prevent the fall forward by using our hands as a barrier. This is almost a non-voluntary movement that we all have faced at some point in our lives.

Wrist guards are supposed to protect the hands in such conditions. The main goal is to absorb the shock/impact force from falling and protect your wrists.

How Do Wrist Guards Work?

Many skaters argue about whether wrist guards work or not. Some say they actually help while others don’t feel protected enough.

Over the years, we’ve noticed that wrist guards do work but the level of protection they offer has some limitations.

Once you fall your face down, the natural reflex will put your hands in front of your body and use them to absorb some impact energy.

If the force is too strong, wrist guards can’t take the impact and you end up with a broken wrist as a result. However, wrist guards still help minimize the damage on your wrists.

injury mechanism of a radial fracture

To protect your wrists from getting hammered by rough terrain, try not to catch yourself with your hands as you fall.

Focus on your knee/elbow pads and try rolling sideways as soon as you hit the floor. Keep your elbows tucked in. You can also try to balance yourself so a sudden mishap can’t make you fall.

Design

Wrist guards have very specific goals. Your guards are there to prevent sudden extreme hyperextension.

The build quality and materials used allow wrist guards to absorb shock and scatter the kinetic forces, especially when you are moving at high speeds.

Despite what many people think, wrist guards are not the primary protection from rough falls. Knee pads should be the primary concern for shock absorption.

The best level of protection that wrist guards offer is that they help prevent gravel burns and serious fractures in your wrist. The key to minimizing your injury is to slide forward on the guard’s volar plate.

Limitation

How much impact energy you’re facing while falling will determine the severity of the injury.

The amount of the force increases drastically if you fall into a concrete/solid surface while moving at a high speed. The angle of the impact is also crucial.

If the force is too great, your wrist guards will probably not be able to prevent fracture; but it will reduce the force so you can heal quickly without any permanent damage.

That is why many people think wrist guards don’t protect you from fracturing your wrist and they are not entirely wrong.

Effectiveness

If you want no injuries at all, we recommend relying on your knee pads more.

Multiple studies have found that wrist guards actually work and reduce the impact force by almost 30%. People without guards are 12.9 times more likely to face a wrist injury.

Some other research indicated the wrist guard may transfer some of the impact force to your elbow and upper hand, increasing the risk of fracture in other sides of the hand.

That is why many people say “wrist guards just move the break”. To them, we say, “learn to fall properly and you’re good to go”.

Different Types of Wrist Guards

It depends on what type of sport/activity you are planning for. General-purpose wrist guards can help you protect your wrists in sports like inline skating and roller skating.

There are also purpose-built wrist guards for snowboarding that offer additional protection from the cold outside.

Different types of wrist guards

Some of the guards provide a single splint and some others provide two of them. The main purpose is to prevent your wrist from bending too much.

The basic ones come with a strap to put around the wrist and a plastic bent that goes in front of your hand.

Wrist Guards vs Wrist Braces

Many people get confused between wrist guards and wrist braces.

Wrist braces are the thing you wrap around your wrist while recovering from an injury. Wrist guards are used for preventing injury or reducing damage.

Wrist Guard Levels

Wrist guards are usually rated by levels. The most basic guards being level 1, can offer partial protection and a good range of motion. They are lightweight and comfortable to wear.

Level 2 wrist guards come with better protection and lower comfort. They will reduce your grip

They have extended surface area and usually are reinforced with straps or sleeves. They are warmer to wear.

We recommend level 2 guards for beginners as they are more prone to injury.

What Sports Are Wrist Guards Good For?

1. Essential

Wrist guards are essential for the type of sports where you are most likely to fall facing forward.

Some examples are inline skating, longboarding, snowboarding, biking, skiing, and most other roller sports.

2. Optional

You don’t need them for games that don’t require moving at high speeds. But you can still wear one for a sense of protection since accidents don’t come preannounced.

Some common sports that you can use wrist guards for but aren’t mandatory are weight lifting, motocross, tennis, and paragliding.

How to Wear a Wrist Guard?

To some extent, wrist guards are just gloves with a few extra steps. The glove contains a liner, guard, and strap for securing the guard neatly.

The first step would be to glide your thumb through the wool. Keep your wrist aligned with the curve. Now wrap the straps around and secure the position with velcro.

The wrist guard should fit your wrist snugly and your palm should align with the curve perfectly. Keep both splints parallel for dual-splint wrist guards.

When Should You Wear Wrist Guards?

  • Inline skating
  • Roller skating
  • Hoverboarding
  • Ice Skating
  • Snowboarding
  • Skiing
  • Longboarding
  • Any other roller sports (especially if you are a beginner)
  • Artistic gymnastics
  • Weight lifting
  • Hockey
  • Badminton
  • Tennis
  • Paddle

When shouldn’t you wear wrist guards?

Wrist guards may compromise your grip. We don’t recommend that you use them when you need to rely on your grip.

Wrist guards are there to protect you from gravel burns and nothing else.

FAQs

1. Are wrist guards supposed to be tight?

Ans: No. They should be a snug fit. Already you are losing your grip. No need to make matters worse by tightening your wrist guards more than they need to be.

Use the straps to comfortably wear your wrist guards around your palm.

2. What are wrist guards made of?

Ans: There are a number of materials used to create wrist guards. Usually, the base is made from soft yet rigid materials like cloth, nylon, leather, foam, and synthetic rubber (like neoprene).

The base is secured with straps and velcro. Some guards offer one or more metal splints as additional protection.

3. Do wrist guards work for snowboarding?

Ans: Yes, purpose-built snowboarding wrist guards can reduce the chance of wrist injuries by almost one-third.

However, the best way to protect yourself from wrist injuries is to learn how to fall facing forward.

4. Do I need to wash my wristguards?

Ans:  Yes. Your wrist guards will collect your sweats and bacterias each time you wear them and engage in some kind of activity. This way, those will stink and become unhygienic.

That is why we recommend cleaning your guards every once in a while. If you can’t push them into the machine, wiping them with wet cloth/tissue will also work.

About the author

Colin Kint

Colin is in his mid twenties and a professional skateboarder whom you may already know. He participated in most of the skateboarding competitions in San Francisco. His innate passion for the sport drove him to pursue his career as a professional skateboarder. Another reason why he’s so good at it could be his relentless practice sessions with his friends. Apart from that, Todd also volunteers in various community awareness programs. He’s an environmental activist with an undergraduate law degree and an expert photographer as well. He does most of the photography of our site.

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