Snow provides an excellent opportunity for some fun, healthy exercise on the ski slopes. It’s important to remember, though, that these activities can put you at risk for injury. Certain types of injuries are more common on the slopes, but there are things you can do to prevent these injuries while participating in snowsports.
Common Snowsport Injuries
Several areas of the body are subject to injury in snowsports. Here are some of the most common:
- Ligament injuries: The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) are vital for controlling movement and supporting the knees, but sports like skiing or snowboarding may cause a twist or rotation the knee during turns or falls.
- Dislocations: Falling is common when skiing or snowboarding, especially if you’re new to the sport. One injury that often results from a fall is a shoulder dislocation when the upper arm bone is removed from its socket.
- Rotator cuff injuries: The rotator cuff—muscles and tendons that help provide shoulder support—can also be hurt after a fall.
- Meniscus: The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that supports the knees, and it can be bruised or torn while skiing if the knee is twisted.
- Fractures: Many areas of the body can be fractured while skiing or snowboarding, primarily from heavy falls or slips.
- Skier’s thumb: This is an injury to an area in the hand called the ulnar collateral ligament, and it usually occurs when people fall onto their hand while holding a hard ski pole.
- Ankle sprains: A common event while skiing is catching the skis on something, causing the legs or ankles to twist. This often results in a sprained ankle.
Fortunately, the right precautions on the mountain can help you you minimize your risk of injury:
- Warm up: Cold, static muscles are at a much higher risk of injury than muscles that have been warmed up in advance. Before getting on your first lift, spend 10-15 minutes stretching or practicing aerobic warmups to get the blood flowing and loosen the muscles.
- Use proper equipment: Ski or snowboard with proper equipment that’s in good shape. If bindings are too loose or too tight, or if your equipment is not the right size, you increase your risk of injury. Don’t forget to wear helmets, wrist guards and pads.
- Be aware of your surroundings: The mountain can be a fast-paced place, and you have to stay cognizant of your surroundings. Keep track of changing snow conditions or any icy areas, and be careful in areas where you aren’t familiar with the terrain. Also watch out for other skiers or snowboarders, rocks and trees.
- Practice proper technique: Proper technique increases your safety and the safety of others. Keep a proper stance (legs bent, hands up, weight evenly distributed), and be aware of other people near you. If you’re struggling with a certain level of terrain, consider an easier area.
- Fall correctly: If a fall is unavoidable, make sure to tuck-and-roll. This is the best way to prevent serious injuries caused by a fall.
- Fatigue: If your muscles are tired, you’re much more likely to fall and injure yourself. If your body is telling you it’s time to stop, listen to it and don’t put yourself at risk.
If you do sustain a minor injury on the slopes, find somebody to help you to a safe place. Ice, rest and and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help soothe the injury. If your injury is serious, contact your doctor.
I treat people of all ages in my practice—kids, athletes, adults and retirees––and enjoy being able to understand people’s unique situations in order to help them recover.
“Tips to Avoid Common Ski Injuries This Winter.” New York Orthopedics. https://www.newyorkorthopedics.com/2016/02/24/tips-to-avoid-common-ski-injuries-this-winter/
“Preventing Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries.” Stop Sports Injuries.