With ski season well under way, and the increased popularity of skiing drawing more and more skiers to the slopes, here is what you need to know to help decrease your risk of injury.
Novice skiers are 33% more likely to be injured compared to intermediate or expert skiers; therefore taking a lesson is advised.
Keep yourself conditioned during the off season. Skiing requires sustained contractions of large muscles which can really tire you out and increase your chance of injury.
Update your ski equipment. There have been a lot of advances over the past 30 years and with that a drastic drop in injury rates. The developments of wider and shaped skis have been found to be easier to use, especially by a beginner, since they require less energy to turn. The boot design allows the ankle to be better secured and bindings to be adjustable based on your skill level (novice skiers should wear bindings that easily release from the boot to prevent injury).
Know the terrain and ski within your ski level.
Despite adhering to the above recommendations, a ski injury may occur. Most injuries occur to the ligament located on the inner side of your knee called your MCL (medial collateral ligament). It can be sprained from a twisting fall or when a beginner snow plows for a long time. Another knee ligament that is commonly injured is the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) due to a backward fall or twist as in “catching an edge”. If you rupture the ACL you will probably need surgery to repair it followed by physical therapy. There has been some literature recently which has shown that if you mildly tear it, with the appropriate treatment, surgery can be avoided.
Some common upper extremity injuries include shoulder dislocation and injury to a ligament of the thumb (ulnar collateral ligament) which is second in frequency of injury to the MCL. Using poles with straps are recommended to avoid this thumb injury. PT can help strengthen the shoulder complex after a dislocation but surgery maybe needed if dislocation reoccurs. The thumb can most often be treated with a protective cast.
Be careful on the slopes! If you do have an injury, make sure to ice, use compression, elevate, and seek medical help if necessary. Now that you know all the essentials, you are ready to hit the slopes. Have an amazing and safe skiing season!