Knee and shoulder injuries are the most common injuries on the ski slopes, but also injuries to hands and wrists; neck and back are common in skiers.
We talk about this topic with Dr. Davide Marchettini, traumatologist at Humanitas, medical collaborator of the Italian Federation of Winter Sports, following the women’s teams of giant slalom and special slalom of the Alpine Ski World Cup.
Knee distortion and ligament rupture
The knee is subjected to the greatest stress while skiing, particularly in torsion, as Dr. Marchettini explains: “The foot and ankle are blocked and protected inside the boots and the movements that are performed while skiing determine a series of important stresses to the knee. This joint thus becomes the fulcrum on which most of the energy is discharged. The most frequent injury is knee distortion.
In the most serious cases, distortion may result in the rupture of one or more ligaments. During a fall, the knee may experience greater twisting or rotation than the ligaments can withstand. Particularly exposed are the anterior cruciate ligaments, but also the collateral ligaments that can be damaged when the knee is bent and is subjected to a lateral force. Other muscle tissues can also be injured, such as the meniscus.
Shoulder dislocation and collarbone fracture
“Among the most frequent accidents, when the impact is direct or when the fall occurs with the arm in extension, there is the dislocation of the shoulder: the contact between the head of the humerus and the glenoid cavity is lost, the anatomical part of the scapula that articulates with the head of the humerus,” explains the specialist.
Traumatic injuries to the tendons of the rotator cuff or collarbone fracture can also occur. Moreover, fractures of the proximal humerus are also frequent, caused by direct trauma, as well as acromion-clavicular dislocation, always caused by direct trauma.
The thumb of the skier
The so-called thumb of the skier is “a trauma to the first finger, at the level of the metacarpalangeal joint, due to the thrust of the ski pole on the finger itself. This trauma causes the ulnar collateral ligament to break (partially or completely), stabilizing the joint and allowing the hand a stable grip,” explains the practitioner.
“A fall with the hand open, however, can lead to trauma in the hand, wrist and elbow: from distortions to fractures of the bones of the hand (the most frequent is borne by the carpal scaphoid), wrist fractures, radial capital fractures. However, injuries to the hand and wrist are more frequent for snowboarders,” the specialist points out.
Skiers could also suffer the so-called whiplash: during the fall, in fact, the body could go forward, while the head goes backwards and then, abruptly, forward. The contraction of the dorsal muscles can be felt even after 24-48 hours from the injury.
After a day on the ski slopes it is also possible to feel back pain, due to the torsional stress that the rachis suffer; a disturbance that is more common, however, in those who dedicate themselves to snowboarding. A fall may cause direct trauma to the sacrum and coccyx.