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How to Prevent Injuries on The Slopes

05 January 2017

The 2017 ski and snowboard season is upon us and it is estimated that more than one million Britons are preparing to head to the slopes.

Snow sports are great exercise and fun, but they can have a serious side to them. Research shows there are around three injuries per 1000 skier days. Snowboarders have a higher injury risk, with a reported four to 16 injuries per 1000 snowboarding days. 

Snowboarders more commonly get wrist, shoulder and ankle injuries, whilst skiers tend to get knee ligament injuries. Wrist injuries account for 28% of all snowboarding injuries, compared to about 3% of skiing injuries; in contrast around 17% of skiing injuries are Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears, whereas this equates to less than 2% of snowboarding injuries. 

If you are planning a skiing or snowboarding trip, keep in mind that staying safe is important when having fun outdoors this season. Even the most experienced skiers and snowboarders are at risk of injury whilst enjoying the snow.

Two of our orthopaedic consultants, Professor Sanjiv Jari who specialises in knee injuries, and Mr Mike Hayton who specialises in hand and wrist injuries, provide the below guidance to help skiers and snowboarders stay injury free on the slopes.

Professor Jari suggests following the below principles:

  • Stay hydrated - drink plenty of water before, during and after outdoor activities, especially at high altitudes. Avoid drinking alcohol because it can increase the risk for hypothermia and reduce your level of co-ordination.
  • Safety - it is vital to wear a helmet at all times, regardless of age or ability, as this can prevent a serious head injury. You should also wear goggles, gloves and padding.
  • Preparation - in the month prior to your trip, start a fitness program to build strength, conditioning and endurance. Many gyms have ski circuit classes to help with this.  Consider taking lessons, as evidence shows that inexperienced skiers and snowboarders are much more likely to get injured.
  • Check equipment – ensure that your kit is working properly. If you are hiring equipment, ensure it is from a reputable supplier. For skiing, make sure the ski bindings are not set too tight or loose for your ability, as the failure of release of ski bindings during twisting is by far the most common cause of ACL tearing.

Mr Mike Hayton offers the below tips to prevent a hand or wrist injury:

  • Skiers thumb is a very common ligament injury to the inside of the thumb knuckle. To minimise the occurrence of this I would avoid the ski pole loop - instead, try to hold the handle and let the strap dangle down. It is often the strap wrapped around the thumb, bending it back and sideways causing the injury.
  • Fall safely – if you do take a tumble, simply let go of your poles and let them fall away to your side. It is better, and less painful, to walk a few metres to retrieve your pole than tear your thumb ligament.

As there are around 100,000 snowboarding wrist fractures worldwide every year it's important to be aware of the following:

  • Practice your technique – when flying through the air, hurtling towards the ground, try to roll with the fall on your
    shoulder and upper arm. Avoid putting out your hands and wrists in front of you, but rather pull them in across your chest out of harm’s way.
  • Wrist protection – invest in some braces. Over-the-counter Velcro straps with a metal bar often help, but we can now make custom thermoplastic splints that perfectly contour your wrists. There is even an option to personalise your splint with your own design or logo.

For more information or to make an appointment with Professor Sanjiv Jari or Mr Mike Hayton please call 01625 545 036.

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