Skiing and Snowboarding: Preventing Injuries

Skiing and snowboarding are great activities to keep fit and have fun. However, it is very important to be aware of potential injuries related to these sports and how they can be prevented.

Without a doubt, the knee is the body part most frequently injured, with over 35% of all injuries related to going downhill. Knee injuries (anterior or posterior cruciate ligament sprains, meniscal tears) can occur during rotational movements and hyper extension.

Fractures to the clavicle and the humerus are also very common on the slopes. We often see them in cases of impact at high speed, as a result of collisions with trees, poles or other skiers.

It must be said that fluctuating winter conditions sometimes create dangerous skiing conditions. Hard surfaces result in injuries due to high speed and collisions, while a powdery surface or heavy snow will lead to twisting injuries and other similar injuries.

Beginners are three times more at risk of injury than expert skiers. However, the latter tend to suffer more serious injuries, to the head in particular, or intense ligament sprains. The difference is often a result of the speed at which the expert skier moves. The speed increases the risk of injury and severe head trauma. And, unfortunately, head injuries are common on the slopes.

It is true that while skiers and snowboarders move at a higher speed on the slopes than cyclists do, cyclists are much more aware of the need to wear a helmet.

Collisions with trees, equipment and other people are major causes of head traumas. Head injuries in general are also on the rise and are twice more common among men, and three times more common among people under 35 years of age. All in all, head injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in children and young adults in Canada. These are statistics that just can’t be ignored!


Avoiding injuries

Skiing and snowboarding injuries definitely happen too frequently and can be avoided by following some basic tips.

- Get fit before beginning the season. Do not count on skiing or snowboarding to get back in shape.

- It is important to adhere to some fitness elements such as:

  • cardio-respiratory exercises to prevent fatigue
  • interval training to build strength
  • strengthening of quadriceps and hamstrings (leg presses, leg extensions, hamstring curls, squats, etc.)
  •  stretches to increase flexibility to prevent injuries
  • abdominal strengthening to increase core stability
  • balance and coordination exercises to increase agility

- Know the technique well: take a lesson to refresh your memory, especially if you come back from an injury related to skiing or snowboarding.


Having the right equipment

Wear protective goggles and a helmet, even though helmets are not mandatory on the slopes. Skiers and snowboarders should educate themselves about the benefits and limitations of helmets currently on the market. To find out about the various safety standards for ski or snowboard helmets, visit this page on the Health Canada website.

Nevertheless, the data show there are 45% fewer head injuries in young skiers wearing helmets, compared to those who don’t wear one. It must also be noted that the treatment of preventable injuries in Canada costs billions of dollars every year. So, despite the helmet not being mandatory, we must admit that wearing one is highly profitable.

It is also important to regularly have your equipment checked. Do not borrow equipment that is not properly fitted to you.

Surprisingly, the type of ski pole can have an impact on an upper body injury. It is safer to let go of the poles completely instead of trying to use them to maintain balance.

During a fall, it is a common reflex to outstretch one’s hand to absorb the impact, but this can lead to injury because the muscles contract. When muscles are forced in a move or an intense effort, this can result in a muscle sprain.


On your mark. Ready. Go!

Dress warmly.

Do a warm up session before you hit the slopes and a cool down one afterwards. Increase your heart rate before you jump on the slopes to warm up your muscles and do some light stretches at the very end.
 

Eat a good meal the night before and stay properly hydrated during the day.

Respect your limits! Ski at your own level and don’t try to follow friends who are more experienced.

Take pauses and don’t overdo it. It is proven that knee injuries and other injuries occur more frequently when one is tired.

Finally, if you have any signs or symptoms of an injury from skiing or snowboarding, do not wait to contact a health care professional. An effective treatment and care can get you back on your feet soon.

And let’s not forget that on the slopes, as with everything else in life, moderation is always the key!

 

See also

Pre-ski Stretching Routine

Skier's Thumb