For many, this time of year sees thousands of snow enthusiasts flocking to the slopes to enjoy the exhilaration of speed and movement in a spectacular mountain setting. 

As winter approaches, skiers are packing up their cars and heading to the mountains on the weekends to enjoy beautiful ski trails. As with all sports activities, there is always the potential for injury, especially with icy winter conditions and bulky equipment that restricts mobility.

While skiing presents a risk for injury, a little common sense and preparedness can greatly reduce the risks. Read on to learn the most common injuries and How to Avoid them. 

Common Ski-Related Injuries

Any part of your body can get injured when you are skiing. However, because of the body mechanics involved with the sport, some parts of you are much more prone to injury than others. Let’s examine the most vulnerable parts of your body when it comes to skiing.

  • Head Injuries

Regardless of your level of experience, it can be difficult to properly maintain speed and balance at the same time. After a fall or collision, hitting your head on a tree or rock can lead to a disastrous injury. Head injuries can range from minor to significant trauma. Either way, it requires immediate attention.

At the worst, head injuries can lead to excessive bleeding, which might require stitches. Other injuries may appear to be less severe but can cause lack of coordination or light-headedness. Head injuries are extremely serious and could get worse without proper treatment. To prevent severe head injuries, always wear a helmet.

How to avoid

The best way to avoid head injuries is to wear a helmet and goggles. By wearing protective gear, you significantly reduce the risk of a head injury. You can also reduce the risk of injury by not attempting to do things outside of your ability.

  • MCL Injuries

Medial Collateral Ligament injuries are common skiing injuries because of the high rate of speed that skiers often achieve. When force is placed upon a bent knee at speed, we have a recipe for MCL tears and strains.

An MCL injury in the making happens when you see a skier flying down the mountain, losing control of their speed, then falling in an attempt to slow themselves. When their leg bends inward during this process, it puts the MCL at serious risk, resulting in the possibility of a sprain or a tear. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may or may not need surgery.

How to Avoid

It is a good idea to wear knee braces if you are worried about sustaining a knee injury. By staying fit and wearing the proper gear, you can significantly reduce the risk of knee injuries. However, no matter how good of shape you are in or how great your protective equipment is, some knee injuries are simply unavoidable. Anytime you decide to strap on your skis and fly down a hill, you are putting yourself at risk.

  • ACL Tear or Rupture

As one of the most common sports injuries, the ACL is subject to harm in any sport that involves rapid maneuvering. Skiing and snowboarding both involve sudden turns that can potentially cause an ACL tear. Located in the center of the knee, the ACL controls how far the tibia can move in relation to the femur. ACL injuries occur when people pivot while standing, hyperextend, or stop suddenly.

Regulating your speed is critical to winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. As sports medicine specialists, we advise all patients that a sudden halt in your movement while navigating steep terrain could contribute to an ACL injury.

How to Avoid

The best way to avoid painful and costly knee injuries is to condition and strengthen your legs. Exercising and working out regularly, your knees and lower body will be stronger and more resistant to injury. You should start a regular workout regime at least six weeks before the skiing season.

  • Rotator Cuff Strain

The rotator cuff is made up of a group of muscles and tendons. These work together to stabilize the shoulder joint. A rotator cuff injury is common during a fall while skiing, especially if the fall is not controlled. Learning how to control a fall and when to give up and fall sideways instead of continuing to hurtle down a slope is a vital skill for any skier. With the help of a rotator cuff doctor, San Francisco residents who sustain shoulder injuries while skiing can regain mobility.

How to avoid

As with knee injuries, the best way to avoid a strained or torn rotator cuff is to strengthen and condition that area of the body. You should also make sure to do plenty of stretching before you start skiing. Finally, using proper form is essential with downhill and cross-country skiing. An excellent way to get hurt is by not knowing what you are doing and flailing recklessly about it.
You can avoid most rotator cuff and upper extremity injuries through strength and conditioning, stretching, and practicing.

  • Skier’s Thumb

A Skier’s Thumb injury occurs when the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), which runs from the hand to the inside of the elbow, comes under undue stress or becomes torn. It is often the result of a skier trying to catch or slow their fall with the ski pole still in their hand. When the thumb is severely bent sideways or backwards, it can lead to a strain or outright rupture of the UCL, which many people call Skier’s Thumb.

How to avoid

To avoid tearing your UCL or Skier’s Thumb, you should drop your poles if you start falling.

  • Spinal Injuries

Probably the most common type of spine injury is Whiplash. This is caused when a skier or snowboarder stops suddenly by running into another skier or stationary object. The neck can bend too far backward or too far forward. In more serious cases, this can cause a fracture in the upper cervical vertebra.

A common injury to the lumbar spine is a burst fracture. This occurs when you land on your feet or bottom, and the force is transmitted up your spine, causing a starburst pattern fracture in the vertebra.

How to avoid

The best way to avoid a detrimental spinal injury is to not ski above your level or try things that you cannot do. Most ski injuries happen because of negligence, carelessness, recklessness, and lack of preparation. If you take the time to condition your body, wear protective gear, and act responsibly, you are much less likely to sustain a skiing injury.

What Causes Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries?

Most snow sport injuries are traumatic, caused by being on dangerous terrain, lift accidents, falls, and collisions. In many instances, fatigue after a long day on the slopes or poor judgment can be blamed for injuries. The most common issues that predispose people to injury are:

  • Time skiing/snowboarding without rest
  • Skiing/snowboarding above ability level
  • Improper/faulty equipment
  • Inadequate adjustment to altitude
  • Dehydration/fatigue
  • Skiing/snowboarding off trail or in closed areas
  • Failure to observe posted warning signs by the mountain responsibility conduct code 

Ask Your Doctor

Everyone’s journey to recovery from surgery or orthopedic injury is unique. The general guidelines above will help you estimate how long it can take to return to driving after different types of surgeries. But in the end, you need to make a decision based on your personal needs and abilities. 

You must follow specific restrictions if you have been given anesthesia or other medications. If you have limited movement of a body part or pain, you may need to avoid driving for an extended period of time. That is because slower response times and limited range of motion put you at risk for an accident. 

To learn more about driving after surgery or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, call us at 800-698-1280.

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