Snow sports have a reputation for being notoriously injury-prone recreational activities. Fast speeds, slippery surfaces and vulnerable ligaments make for a tricky combination! That said, according to statistics on ski-injury.com, only about 4 in one thousand people on the slopes per day will sustain an injury that requires professional medical attention. Unfortunately, some of these injuries can be quite serious and persistent. The most common slope injuries include head injury, knee injuries, shoulder injuries, spinal injuries, as well as thumb and wrist injuries. Treatments vary from something as simple as RICE (rest, ice, compress and elevate), to more significant approaches such as surgery, lifelong medical ligament bracing and even hospitalization. For this reason, it is important to take steps to prevent injury so that you can fully enjoy your time on the slopes.
1. Use equipment professionally adjusted to your physique. If you own your equipment, have it checked regularly - at least once a season - by a professional. Never borrow gear from a friend as this increases the likelihood of an accident by an incredible 800%. If you rent, make sure you have a professional adjust the gear to fit you perfectly. When they ask your ability, never overstate as this will affect your bindings and ski length significantly. It is better to skew gear adjustments towards beginner than to a more advanced stage. Likewise, boots should fit snug against the ankle… too loose and your ankle can twist or worse.
2. Equip your children with safety gear. When it comes to snow sports, children are at particularly high risk of injury. After all, kids lack the muscle control and personal judgment that comes with experience. They can make reckless decisions or simply struggle with manual dexterity. Approximately 35% of all snow sport injuries involve children and for this reason, it is critical that children wear helmets when they are participating in skiing or snowboarding. While harder to find, children’s wrist guards are extremely helpful as well, particularly with snowboarding.
3. Wear safety gear and braces. Kids are not the only snow bunnies at risk of injury. Consider wearing a protective helmet and wrist guards at all times. If you have a lingering injury, such as a torn ligament, equip the compromised joint with a supportive hinged knee brace.
4. Professional instruction is worth the investment. Beginner skiers are also at higher risk of injury so it is worth investing is some professional instruction. A few classes will help beginners develop good (i.e. safe) habits and techniques. Be forewarned, though. Instruction can also lead to a bit of overconfidence. Be careful not to push yourself beyond your comfort and ability.
5. Always warm up before hitting the slopes. Before your first run, take a few minutes to gently stretch out your legs, especially your hamstrings, quads, and hips. Hold each stretch for approximately 30 seconds. Each stretch should feel pleasantly firm but not painful. After you stretch, suit up in your safety gear, including any medical braces for previous injuries, then start your day on the mountain with a few lighter runs to get your blood flowing.
6. Take regular breaks throughout the day. Snow sports are so much fun it is easy to lose track of time. Between the fun and the adrenalin, it is difficult to feel how tired by muscles might be. Many avid skiers and snowboarders will keep active all day, not fully registering just how tired their body is. A fatigued body is more susceptible to injury and that is why most adult injuries occur after lunchtime, when our bodies are exhausted. Regular breaks will allow you to rest, and recover.
7. Don’t ski alone. As with any outdoor activity, it is best not to go alone. You may fall and become incapacitated. Always have a partner and ensure that you keep within sight of each other just in case trouble arises.
8. Stay on marked trails. Do not stray off marked slopes or paths as you may encounter exposed rocks, vegetation, steep slopes, avalanche areas or even dangerous cliffs.
9. Be familiar with the weather conditions. Always research the weather conditions before hitting the slopes. Not only should you avoid extreme weather such as blizzards, but consider foregoing icy conditions, extremely deep powder snow, and wet snow as these environments enhance the likelihood for injury.
10. Know your limitations. It may be tempting – especially if you ski or board with more experienced friends - but do not attempt slopes or speeds beyond your ability.
About the Author: MMAR Medical Group Inc. is a premier supplier of high quality medical orthopedic braces and supports, including ACL braces, patella stabilizers, hinged knee braces and OA knee braces. To find quality medical shoulder, knee, back braces and more, please visit MMAR Medical online.