Most common ski injuries and how to avoid them
After 6 months of dreaming about snow, the wait is finally over. Winter has arrived and you’re heading off on that long-anticipated first ski season or ski holiday. Flights have been booked, winter wardrobe stocked up and even sorted yourself a ski job. You can almost feel the snow crunching under your feet and taste that delicious apres-ski jager bomb on your tongue.
There’s one last thing to consider before you head off… how would you deal with an injury?
Injuries aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when planning your ski season. In truth, the possibility of picking up a snowsports injury is often overlooked, however, falls do happen and unfortunately, injuries do too. It’s all part of progression, and the risk that comes with any extreme sport – you can’t get to the top without a few knocks.
We always encourage getting comprehensive health and sports insurance on a winter season. It’s also often a requirement before entering some countries on working holiday visa. More importantly, your family will worry if you don’t (and you have to keep them sweet if you're going to be away for Christmas).
So, let’s talk about it.
Injuries in snowsports are the elephant in the room on a ski season, we know it’s likely to happen but if nobody talks about it maybe just maybe we’ll all be sweet? Unfortunately, the numbers say otherwise which we will take a look at shortly.
To start, it’s critical to say that we shouldn’t live in fear of getting injured. It is important to be aware that injuries can and do happen. If you are the unlucky statistic that is affected, then it’s important to be prepared for the recovery process. This will allow you to get back into your boots and on the mountain as quickly as possible.
Common Ski Injuries in Numbers
A study in New Zealand spanning across 5 winter seasons, found that for every 1000 skiers there were 3.14 injuries (Costa-Scorse, Hopkins et al, 2017). That’s a lot. Of this number, knee injuries account for around 20-25% of all injuries and are especially common in skiers. As a snowboarder, you are 3 x more likely (than a skier) to injure an upper limb such as your shoulder or wrist.
Prevention: what can I do?
Skiing is a sport, an injury-prone one at that. We can't always stop the injuries but we can prepare in the pre-season to reduce the chances of hurting ourselves. The best way to avoid an injury is not to get one in the first place… clever right? We’ve spoken with Sports and Exercise Physician, Dr Sarah Beable to get her key advice on the best way to prevent injuries from happening.
Most injuries in Snowsports happen on the first or last runs of the day. There are a few techniques and tricks you can use to minimise the risk of injury in these situations.
1. Pre-Season Fitness
The first days back on snow after summer can be tough on your body, the more prepared you are the less fatigued and sore you will be. If your body isn't performing at a high-level and your legs start turning to jelly, mistakes and injuries are more likely to happen.
If you’re struggling for workout inspiration take a look at our Pre-Season fitness guide with Cassie Fortune.
Skiing has become so accessible to the point that you barely have to move a muscle to get to the top of a mountain. When it's this easy to get up there, preparing your body for the day ahead doesn't get much of a second thought.
Completing a warm-up before skiing or snowboarding gives your muscles and mind time to prepare for the strain you are about to put your body under.
Always warm-up before doing cool stuff like this...
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3. Have the right equipment
Knee issues are up there with the most common injuries in skiing. Non-release of the binding causes more injuries than release (Costa-Scorse, Hopkins et al, 2017). This is often because of skiers having either unsuitable equipment or not having the correct knowledge on best practice set up. If you can’t tell your brakes from your dins take a look at our ski & snowboard equipment guide, we break down exactly what equipment you need to work as a ski or snowboard instructor.
4. Safety Awareness & Collision Management
As a ski or snowboard instructor, one of the first things you will learn is ‘safety awareness’. This covers anything from where not to stop, lift loading best practice (people do actually fall off, sometimes) and where to ski fast and where to ski slow. Being mindful of other skiers and boarders around you can be the difference between crashing and going home to ride another day.
Pro Tip: Skis can be dangerous weapons in the wrong hands: watch the below video for the coolest and safest ways to carry your skis...
5. Know your limits
We always support fully sending it in 99% of situations, (#sendit)... as long as it's within reason! We don’t recommend hitting the XL jump line if you’re still wobbly on the medium line. You may have the ability to bomb it down through a busy run but, you never know which way that learner or family might decide to turn or stop and take a selfie.
6. Never call the last run (EA's top tip)
If you’ve ever heard someone shout “2 more runs and we’ll skip the last" and had no idea what they meant - this tip's for you ;)
More psychological than factual, this popular myth will echo around the mountain at 3:30 pm. Most injuries occur on the first or last runs, but you can’t get injured if you skip the last run
Situations in the mountain environment can change in a heartbeat. Deteriorating weather, changing snow conditions or drunk skiers to name just a few. These changes are outside of your control, but with an awareness of these factors, you can prevent (most) accidents from happening.
Following the steps above you can minimise the likelihood of injury, but not completely remove it. There will be times when you cannot do anything to prevent an injury, but these situations are rare. With a little pre-season ski training, some training on the mountain and a dash of luck you’ll be sending it all season long.
The world-class instructor training provided on an EA Ski & Snowboard internship will cover in-depth all of the points above. Avalanche skills and safety courses are included in the Internship plus program. Helping you stay safe in the backcountry.
**In part 2 of this series, 'Recovering from Injury in the Snowsports Industry’. we look at what to do if the worst comes to worst and you do pick up an injury.
We speak with 2 people to hear their advice and accounts on dealing with a serious injury. The interviews are with Olympian Beau James Wells and our very own Katie Leaf.**