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While some view the winter season as a hassle, skiers and snowboarders rejoice at the opportunity to get out on the mountain and make a few turns.
As with any athletic pursuit, the risk for injury is heightened, which is why the team of sports medicine specialists here at Western Orthopaedics wants to review a few of the more common ski and snowboard injuries and steps you can take to prevent them.
Before we get into our list of injuries, we want to point out that skiing and snowboarding enjoy an excellent safety record. For example, the two sports experience less than one fatality per one million skier visits and less than one catastrophic injury per million skier visits (a skier visit is counted every time a snowboarder or skier visits a mountain resort).
That said, less serious accidents do occur, but with the right prevention plan in place, you can lower your risks for getting injured on the slopes this winter season.
In recent years, head injuries during sports have been in the spotlight, and they can occur while skiing or snowboarding, usually as a result of colliding with the ground, another slider, or an object on the side of the run.
For the past two decades, wearing a helmet on the slopes has become de rigueur, and we highly suggest that you always ski or snowboard with your head well-protected.
For skiers who wear hard boots, there’s a risk for tibia/fibula fracture, as these bones meet the hard edge of the boot in a fall. Fortunately, the bindings on skis are designed to release before there’s enough pressure to fracture a bone in your lower leg.
If you’re heading out onto the hill, make sure that your bindings are at the right setting for your height, weight, and skill level. If you’re at all unsure about what your setting should be, stop in at the ski shop or rental shop and have a tech set your bindings correctly.
New skiers and snowboarders are more prone to shoulder dislocations, especially when they put an arm out to brace for a fall. While there’s not much you can do to avoid every tumble on the slopes, if you find that you’re falling a lot, we recommend that you set yourself up with some ski and snowboard lessons so that you’re steadier on your equipment.
Skiers rely on poles whereas snowboarders ride pole-free, which leaves them more vulnerable to wrist injuries when they fall. If you’re a snowboarder, we recommend that you outfit yourself with a pair of wrist guards, which help to brace your wrists.
Since skiers have two boards upon which to slide, they’re more prone to knee injuries as their skis can separate. Knee injuries, such as anterior cruciate ligament tears, are one of the bigger threats with skiing, so anything you can do to strengthen and support your knees are steps well worth taking (knee exercises and knee braces if you have a weak knee). You should also ensure that your bindings are set properly so they don’t release too early or too late.
To conclude, we applaud the fact that you’re getting outside and being active during the winter, but we urge you to practice a few small prevention techniques that will help you stay out of the lodge and on the slopes.
If you have more questions about preventing injuries this winter, please contact one of our offices in Denver or Arvada, Colorado.