If you’re an avid skier you’ll know it can be a fun and hugely exhilarating pastime. However, skiing can also be classed as an extreme sport. And for good reason too, as not many of us prepare for the physical demand that skiing places on the body, meaning that injuries are common.
Here, Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon Mr Sam Oussedik explains what the most common ski injuries are, and how you can prepare yourself for ski season — to help reduce your risk of injury, so you can look forward to your next adventure on the slopes.
As a higher-risk yet popular sport, overall injury rate from skiing is close to one injury per 1,000 days skied. And, skiing can result in various types of injuries, affecting different parts of the body. The most common are:
The knee is the single most common joint affected, accounting for around 1 in 4 ski injuries. The most commonly damaged parts of the knee are the ACL and MCL — ligaments that attach your thigh bone (femur) to your shin bone (tibia) within your knee joint. The pads of cartilage that act as shock absorbers within the meniscus of the knee joint are also commonly affected.
Knee injuries occur so frequently during skiing because of the nature of the sport. They usually happen as a result of catching an unexpected edge with your ski. If the binding keeping your ski to your ski boot fails to release, your body weight and speed then create a lot of energy through the tip of your ski. The length of your ski then acts like a lever, forcing your knee to twist, potentially causing significant bone and ligament damage.
Skiing accidents can also cause breaks and fractures to the lower legs, ankles and feet.
If you’re about to fall when skiing, often it feels automatic to put your arms out in front of you to break your fall.
Doing this causes the impact of the fall to travel through your arms and can cause injury to your shoulder. And, this can be anything from a sprained shoulder, dislocation, to bone fractures. A broken collarbone, or clavicle, is also a common injury from falling.
The natural instinct to put your arms out if you fall, also puts the wrists at risk of injury. They’re often the first point of the body to absorb the impact of the fall.
If you fall and land on your hands while still holding your ski pole with its strap, it’s common to suffer something called skier’s thumb. This is where the thumb is sprained or dislocated.
Skiing also poses a risk of serious injury to the head, face and neck. Wearing a dedicated ski helmet (as opposed to a cycling helmet) significantly reduces your risk of serious head and brain injury.
Common head injuries include whiplash and concussion.
Although a ski injury can happen to anyone, the risk of injury is higher in those who haven’t received professional training. Those who rent rather than own their ski equipment, and those aged between 35 and 50 years old, are also at a higher risk.
Accidents while skiing are often caused by:
When it comes to skiing, preparation is everything. The more you prepare, the less likely you are to get injured. Here’s some tips to help prevent ski injuries:
If you do get injured when skiing and need medical treatment, the safest course of action is to be seen as soon as possible following your injury. Even if you are still on your ski holiday, this can help prevent potential further damage.
Any medical diagnosis should be made by a trained specialist. This can involve a combination of careful examination, x-rays and MRI scans where necessary.
It’s usually possible to travel back to the UK with your injury, where you can seek definitive diagnosis and treatment. If you have a broken bone however, it’s best to have the break stabilised before travelling.