With the winter season upon us and the mountains are covered in snow, skiing enthusiasts gear up for an exciting time on the slopes. But with the thrill of skiing or snowboarding comes the risk of injury. Whether you're a beginner, intermediate or expert, no one is immune to the hazards that come with winter sports. In 2021 alone, there were 57,000 skiing and snowboarding-related injuries in the US.
But fear not, Adventure Medicine is here to help you stay safe and injury-free on the slopes! By following some simple tips and guidelines, you can reduce the risk of getting injured and enjoy your skiing adventure to the fullest. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a novice, staying safe is crucial, and Adventure Medicine has the knowledge and expertise to guide you on how to stay safe and have a fantastic time on the slopes.
Common Injuries and what to do if they happen
Musculoskeletal injuries are a common occurrence in skiing, with knee injuries and shoulder injuries being the most prevalent. Knee injuries can range from minor sprains to more severe ligament injuries, such as a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or medial collateral ligament (MCL). Shoulder injuries can include dislocations, fractures, and rotator cuff tears. Additionally, skiers are also at risk of suffering from fractures in different parts of the body, such as the wrist, collarbone, and ankle. For skiers, the good news is that advancements in technology have slightly reduced injury rates. Shaped skis have allowed people to learn faster and stay in better control, while boot-top leg (tibia) fractures have become less common. However, injuries such as knee sprains, shoulder injuries, and thumb sprains (such as skier's thumb) still occur. Snowboarders tend to experience injuries to the wrist, shoulder, and head more frequently. Falling on an outstretched hand can lead to wrist fractures, while dislocations and rotator cuff tears can occur in the shoulder. To prevent musculoskeletal injuries and fractures, it's important to have the appropriate equipment, such as helmets, wrist guards, and knee pads, and to choose ski runs that match your ability level. Taking ski lessons can also help you learn how to fall safely and reduce the risk of injury. If you do experience an injury, seek medical attention promptly to ensure proper treatment and avoid further complications.
Head injuries are one of the most serious types of injuries that can occur while skiing. They can range from mild concussions to more severe traumatic brain injuries, and unfortunately, they are also the leading cause of death in skiers. Falls are the most frequent cause of head injury, followed by collisions with objects other than the skiing surface, such as trees or rocks. Symptoms of head injuries can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and confusion. In more severe cases, loss of consciousness or seizures may occur. It's crucial to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect a head injury, as early treatment can significantly improve the chances of a full recovery. To prevent head injuries, it's essential to always wear a properly fitting helmet when skiing. A helmet can greatly reduce the risk of a head injury and is a simple yet effective way to protect yourself on the slopes.
Hypothermia is another potential risk when skiing. It occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, leading to a dangerous drop in body temperature. Symptoms of hypothermia can include shivering, confusion, and slurred speech. Mild hypothermia can be treated by getting out of the cold and warming up with blankets and hot drinks. However, more severe cases of hypothermia require immediate medical attention. To prevent hypothermia, dress appropriately for the weather and take frequent breaks to warm up.
UV-related injuries are an often overlooked aspect of skiing safety. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can result in sunburn and increase the risk of skin cancer. Additionally, the highly reflective nature of snow can cause a condition known as snow blindness, which is essentially a sunburn of the eyes. Symptoms include pain, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. To prevent these types of injuries, it's essential to wear appropriate sunscreen and protective eyewear while skiing. Sunscreen should have a high SPF and be applied liberally to all exposed skin. Protective eyewear such as goggles or sunglasses with UV protection can help prevent snow blindness and reduce glare, improving visibility and overall safety on the slopes.
In addition to these specific tips, there are some general pieces of advice to keep in mind when hitting the slopes:
- First, it's important to never ski alone. Always have a buddy with you and make sure someone knows where you're skiing and when you plan to return.
- Second, it's essential to come prepared with first aid knowledge. Taking a wilderness life support or expedition medicine course, like the ones offered by Adventure Medicine, can give you the skills and confidence to handle medical emergencies on the slopes. Additionally, bringing a first aid kit with you can be a lifesaver in case of an injury.
- Third, it's important to maintain good physical fitness. Being in good shape can help you avoid fatigue and reduce the risk of injuries. Take breaks when needed and gradually build up to more challenging trails. It's also crucial to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after skiing.
- Fourth, make sure to know and follow all safety rules of the ski resort. This includes knowing general safety rules of skiing such as how to safely stop, merge, and yield to other skiers. Before your outing, make sure you know how to properly get on and off a ski lift.
- Finally, remember to have fun!
By following these simple tips, you can reduce the risk of injury and enjoy your skiing experience to the fullest. If you have any questions or concerns about ski safety, be sure to contact us at Adventure Medicine!
Foto: Joda Dolmans