PREVENTING SKIING and SNOWBOARDING INJURIES
Every year, tens of thousands of skiers and snowboarders enjoy the slopes. However, few adequately prepare for the specific physical demands these sports place on the body, putting them at greater risk for injuries. Although snow sports can be safe, unexpected injuries can occur with improper preparation and/or poor judgment. Fortunately, many injuries can be prevented with proper physical preparation, properly fitted and adjusted equipment, and common sense.
What Are Some Common Causes of Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries?
Most ski and snowboard injuries are traumatic, caused by terrain, lift accidents, falls, and collisions. Additional factors include fatigue or poor judgment. The most common causes of injuries on the slope are:
- Skiing/snowboarding without adequate rest
- Skiing/snowboarding above ability and skill level
- Improper/faulty equipment
- Inadequate adjustment to altitude
- Skiing/snowboarding off designated trails
- Failure to observe posted warning signs
What Are Some of the Most Common Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries?
There are a wide range of skiing and snowboarding injuries including:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or collateral ligament injuries
- Meniscal injuries
- Shoulder dislocations or fractures
- Shoulder separations
- Leg fractures
- Spinal injuries
- Closed head injuries
- Wrist, hand, or thumb injuries
How Can Snowsport Injuries Be Prevented?
Proper Instruction and Equipment
Instruction before getting on the slopes is important in injury prevention. Qualified instructors educate skiers and boarders on the importance of a good warm-up and cool-down, properly fitted equipment, and safe skiing/snowboarding techniques.
Poorly functioning or improperly adjusted equipment is a frequent cause of injuries. Bindings that are too loose or too tight, as well as gear that is improperly sized or used on improper terrain, can lead to injury.
Proper protective equipment such as helmets can prevent serious and even fatal accidents. In terrain parks, wrist guards and elbow and kneepads are also beneficial.
Even expert skiers take time doing easier runs, allowing the body, the joints, and the muscles to warm up and become more flexible before the demands on the body become greater.
Fitness and Conditioning
Skiing and snowboarding require a unique fitness level. Strength and mobility are critical when it comes to absorbing the varied and unpredictable impact of skiing and snowboarding.
Mogul and powder skiing require knee movement, but for the most part, when you’re carving down a groomed or smooth run, it’s the quads that are firing while the knee stays bent with only small mid-range movement for shock absorption as you shift your weight from left to right.
A pre-season weight-training program should include a focus on strength, balance, mechanics, and endurance for building fitness specifically target for the demands of the sport.
Common Sense Precautions
Most injuries occur when fatigued. Be sure to stay adequately hydrated throughout the day and break of a rest every couple of hours. In addition, changing snow and ice conditions can dramatically increase the complexity of terrain. Abiding by the signs and warnings are imperative for your safety as well as the safety of others.
National Ski Areas Association Responsibility Code for Reducing Risk
- Always stay in control
- People ahead of you have the right-of-way
- Stop in a safe place for you and others
- Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield
- Use devices to help prevent runaway equipment
- Observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails
- Know how to use the lifts safely
How Can We Help?
At PTI, we offer strength and conditioning training specifically tailored to the needs and abilities of the athlete. Our Physical Therapists are specialists in assessing and preparing snow sport athletes for the slopes. In the event of an injury, we work closely with surgeons and physicians to guide recovery and get the athlete back on the slopes as quickly and safely as possible.