Among the most common risks of injuries when skiing are those to the hands and wrists. A disastrous fall, and sometimes a hand leaning awkwardly can lead to serious injuries, such as sprains, ligament injuries, and fractures. We spoke with Dr. David Smarrelli, Head of the Unit of Hand Surgery of the Humanitas Gavazzeni Bergamo.

The season of snow sports. What are the biggest risks for the hands, wrists and fingers of skiers?

“As for hands and wrists, the risks include, in sequence: a wrist fracture, fractures of the metacarpals, phalanges and, very typical of “classic” skiers”, the lesion of the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb. It is a very typical lesion, the latter, which is commonly called “stick”: occurs when the paddle hangs on the snow and the skier’s hand gets stuck in the snare of chopstick undergoing a twist that causes a thumb ligament injury. A lesion that may be associated with even a hairline fracture at the point where the ligament is attached.”

(For more information read here: skiing and snowboarding: how to prevent injuries and ski safely)

Skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing: the type of damage depends on the type of skiing?

“Yes, the damage is mostly related to the type of skiing taking place. Practitioners of snowboarding are more prone to fractures, because when they fall they do so with their hands, but also because the practice of skiing provides an approach and a more direct impact of their hands with the track surface. Classic skiers must reckon with skis and poles: the fall usually causes more ligamentous injuries, due to the twisting which is consequent with the hands stuck with the skis and poles. For the cross country skier there is a middle ground: there is the use of rackets but the speed is lower and the falls are similar to those of a snowboarder, with immediate support of hands”.

(For further information see here: Football players, look out for hands!)

What can we do to lessen the risk of trauma to the hands while we ski?

“We must comply with certain rules that may seem obvious but which are not to be overlooked. First of all we need to get to the slopes after a good preparation phase. We must not forget that for most of the year we carry out activities other than skiing, which requires, as all sports activities, a specific workout or training. Then we have to respect our chances, choosing suitable slopes skiing at our technical capabilities and our physical level. Finally it is important to pay attention to the equipment which in recent years has become increasingly technical and reliable: in addition to the helmet it is advisable to wear technical gloves, which not only protect you from the cold, but also serve to muffle the traumas and, in the case of Alpine skiing, use sticks of latest generation, those which instead of tab have a grip with an automatic unlock releasing the hand at the right time and saving the dangerous twists that leads to “stick” injuries.