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Preventing skiing and snowboarding injuries

by Jane Hodgson 17 March 2008


Summary:

On average, an adult skier sustains 1 injury for every 300 days skiing, but taking a few some simple precautions will drastically reduce your risk.


6 Week Skiing Preparation

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6 Week Skiing Preparation

Skiers normally suffer knee and shoulder injuries as well as a number of thumb sprains, whilst with Snowboarders it's more shoulder and head injuries along with wrist sprains and fractures.

Here's some free ski tips and fitness advice to help reduce the risk of ski injury.

Improve your ski fitness

You will be skiing or boarding for several hours a day. Muscles that are prepared for this will perform better, leaving you less liable to injury.

Stretching, strengthening and corestability exercises are beneficial and should be done at least once daily for at least 6 weeks before you head off for the slopes.

Also try to increase your aerobic activity in this time, for instance by doing some running and cycling.

Warming up

Stretching before the first run of the day will loosen muscles and prepare them for the days' activities. Starting on an easy run will help your muscles to warm up.

View the Physiobench programme for our recommended pre skiing warm up exercises.

Ski equipment to use

Own skis

  • Service bindings annually
  • Replace bindings after a bad fall
  • Do a self test on your bindings. Check that bindings will release in a fall.

Hired skis

  • Adjust the bindings - make sure the shop adjusts for your correct weight
  • Be honest in your ability, otherwise you'll be given the wrong ski

Crash helmets

  • Head injuries incidence reduced when you wear one
  • Children in ski school generally require one, sometimes qualifying them for a reduced rate lift pass

Wrist guards

  • Wrist injuries are significantly reduced whilst snowboarding

Borrowing skis

  • Never borrow skis unless they are the correct length and the bindings have been adjusted. Borrowing kit increases the risk of injury by 8 times.

Take some instruction

Beginners and children run a much higher risk of skiing accident than more experienced skiers. Instruction from an early stage is a sound investment.

Ski lift accidents

Statistically you are most likely to be injured in the first few metres after leaving a chair lift. In a fall at slow speeds, the bindings often don't release, leading to serious knee ligament injury.

Anterior cruciate ligament injury can give rise to gross instability of the knee needing surgery or a long course of rehab and the use of a dynamic knee brace when returning to skiing or other sports.

Young children will ski across you so tell them which direction to exit the chairlift.

Preferably only go on the lift with someone of known ability

Skiing safety

Injuries happen more often when you are tired, especially after lunchtime. Take a rest when you need to.

Avoid doing your hardest runs at the end of the day, when your muscles are tired and the chance of injuring yourself is greater.

Skiing at speeds or on runs which are beyond your abilities massively increases the risk of injury.

Only ski off-piste if you have the knowledge to assess avalanche risk, or are with a competent guide. Never ski alone off-piste.

Go easy on the alcohol

Even a small amount of alcohol at lunchtime will impair your reactions and leave you more likely to injure yourself. Save it for the Apres-ski!

Dr Mike Langran and his ski injury website provides a lot more information on skiing injuries.


Disclaimer: The information on this page is written to help you avoid injury. There will always be risk of injury with wintersports regardless of the preparation or warm up. Should you have any health concerns you should always seek advice from a qualified health professional such as a Chartered Physiotherapist or your GP.

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About the author

Jane Hodgson - Chartered Physiotherapist Jane Hodgson Jane specialises in lower body injuries and has raced competitively in running, orienteering and adventure racing.

Did you know

Statistically you are most likely to be injured in the first few metres after leaving a chair lift.

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