Skiing is at the top spot of the most popular winter sports. During winter vacations and weekends, competitive and amateur skiers flock to ski resorts looking for the perfect descent. However, you may risk hurting yourself, even severely, if you are not sufficiently trained. People who try skiing often need to be more prepared or familiar with the sport. In this case, ski injuries can compromise the day or even require long stops.
Injuries range from lower to upper limbs, joints, bones, and ligaments. Depending on the traumatic impact, the level of injury severity also varies. Low-impact injuries require only rest and observation, whereas if the impact is strong, it requires temporary immobilization like braces and casts and invasive treatments, including surgery.
A wide variety of injuries affect those involved in winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, or ski mountaineering. Each discipline presents some typical injuries based on muscular and joint engagement type.
How to Prevent Skiing Injuries: Preparation and Forecast Check
Untrained people who are not used to practicing sports throughout the year may decide to try skiing in the winter months. This is a risky habit, even for amateur skiers who have been practicing the sport for several years.
Without training, muscles and joints may not be ready to deal with the unevenness and irregularities of ski slopes, especially the most complex ones. For this reason, those who enjoy skiing should consider preparatory training before starting the ski season.
Alternatively, starting the day with easy slopes and slowly “getting acquainted” with basic physical and technical gestures to regain confidence with the snow and ski equipment is better. Performing warm-up exercises before starting to ski is also another good idea. Even those who play sports regularly throughout the year should not be exempt from these habits.
Beginners who are skiing for the first time should rely on professionals to teach them the basics of skiing. They are called ski instructors, essential to understanding how to get around the first few times, how to fall, and how to get back up, among other things.
Once ready, all skiers should pay special attention to the weather and snow conditions. In case of fog or thick snowfall, visibility can be poor. Also, fresh snow can be trickier for those less experienced. Under these conditions, waiting for the weather to improve is best.
In the morning, light and snow quality tend to be better. In the afternoon, however, snow tends to become more dangerous, both because skiers move it and because it melts, thus becoming “heavier” and more tiring. Fatigue sets in in the afternoon, and reflexes are not the same as in the early morning.
Ski Equipment in Good Condition and Following the Rules
It is essential to follow safety rules to avoid hurting yourself and others. Therefore, it is necessary to:
- Keep a moderate speed;
- Pay attention to other skiers, especially children;
- Avoid skiing after drinking alcohol;
- Do not venture outside the designated tracks unless experienced;
- Maintain distances that allow you to change direction or stop if needed;
- Rescue other skiers in difficulty without also endangering your safety.
Using good-quality ski equipment is also essential: Skis and boots should be professionally checked before use. The skis must be appropriate for the user’s build, weight, and abilities. Then, it is essential to use safety equipment devices like helmets, back protectors, and gloves with protection.
Knee and Shoulder: The Most Common Skiing Injuries
The area most affected by skiing injuries is the knee. Knees are particularly stressed because of the type of movement and the new materials that make skiing more effortless. However, they also concentrate a lot of energy on the knee itself, subjecting it to significant stress as soon as you lose control. It generates a sprain that overloads the ligaments, with damage increasing as the energy rises, from partial injury to complete injury, including fractures. The anterior cruciate ligament is the most frequently involved, followed by the collateral ligaments and tibial plateau fractures, especially the lateral one.
The shoulder is another joint that is particularly susceptible to injury when falling on skis. It can be hit directly or suffer the indirect energy while falling. There are several traumatic injuries involving it.
The head of the humerus and the glenoid cavity of the scapula can separate, causing what is known as shoulder dislocation. Based on the impact, the acromioclavicular joint may be involved, with varying degrees of dislocation. The proximal humerus may fracture.
Lastly, there can be trauma and fractures involving the clavicle.
From “Skier’s Thumb” to Whiplash: Other Snow Injuries
When we fall, we often tend to put our hands before us for protection. Falling with open hands can result in sprains and wrist, hand, or elbow fractures. If snowboarding, these conditions are more common.
As for skiing, one of the most common hand injuries is known as “skier’s thumb.” It is caused by a fall with a violent pole pushing against the metacarpophalangeal joint. This causes injury to the ulnar collateral ligament, varying in degree based on the extent of the trauma.
More violent trauma at high speed, against a fixed obstacle, or due to the sum of the speeds of two skiers may result in a combination of the injuries described or cause more serious situations. In this regard, leg fractures are frequent, where the “leverage” exerted by the boot plays a role.
Head trauma makes the use of a helmet essential. Cervical sprains – the well-known “whiplash”-chest and abdominal involvement or combinations of multiple fractures involve more critical scenarios and require more intensive and rapid assistance, usually a helicopter rescue.