With winter's brisk, cold air finally here, it's the perfect time to hit the slopes and enjoy skiing and snowboarding. These activities are not only tremendous ways to stay active during the winter, but they also provide an exhilarating workout. Whether you're racing down the mountain, performing tricks in the terrain park, or going for big air in the halfpipe, your body will be thrilled with the intense physical activity.

However, it's important to be aware of the potential risks involved. Like any sport, there is a risk of injury when skiing or snowboarding. Some of the most common snowboarding injuries include wrist injuries, head injuries, spinal injuries, and elbow injuries. It's crucial to take precautions and wear protective gear such as helmets and wrist guards to minimize the risk of these injuries.

So, as you hit the slopes this winter, stay safe and have a blast while enjoying these exciting winter sports!

ACL Injuries
Knee injuries, including anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, are common injuries in skiing due to sharp twists and turns, as well as high-impact landings. One mechanism of ACL injury is the phantom foot, which occurs when the downhill ski's tail and stiff ski boot apply twisting and bending forces to the knee. Another mechanism is the slip-catch, where a skier loses pressure on the outer ski during a turn and tries to regain grip by extending the outer knee. It's important to note that ankle injuries and shoulder injuries can also occur in skiing.

Ankle Injuries

An Ankle injury is less common in skiing than knee injuries, but they do occur and can be quite serious. These injuries often result from unfortunate falls or incorrect landings from jumps. Skiers can suffer from sprains, strains or fractures in the ankle region. It's important to wear well-fitted ski boots to provide proper support to the ankle. Additionally, proper conditioning and strength training of the lower leg muscles can also help in preventing ankle sprains. If you experience intense pain, swelling, or difficulty moving your ankle, it's crucial to seek immediate medical attention to prevent any long-term damage. Always remember, that safety should be your foremost priority while enjoying the thrilling sport of skiing.

Knee Injuries

A knee injury is one of the most prevalent skiing-related injuries, and they often occur due to falls, abrupt changes in direction, or high-impact collisions. Among these, medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprains and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are especially common. It's crucial to keep in mind that such injuries can be considerably painful and may require significant recovery time. Using properly fitted ski equipment and undergoing pre-skiing conditioning can help reduce the risk of knee injuries. If any knee pain or swelling occurs post-skiing, seek immediate medical attention to avoid exacerbating the injury. Ski safe and enjoy the slopes responsibly.

Wrist Fractures
While lower extremity injuries such as ACL injuries are less common in snowboarding, upper extremity injuries such as wrist fractures are more common. When a snowboarder is just beginning, it can be a challenge to maintain balance. If a snowboarder suddenly falls, their natural reaction is to protect themselves by stretching out their hands. Falling on outstretched hands with great force puts structures of the wrist at risk for injury and can lead to painful wrist fractures.  

Shoulder and Head Injuries

While skiing and snowboarding, the risk of shoulder and head injuries is quite significant. Shoulder injuries often occur when skiers fall and land on an outstretched hand, putting excessive force on the shoulder joint. This can lead to a variety of injuries, from dislocations and fractures to rotator cuff tears. It's essential to wear appropriate protective gear and learn the correct techniques to minimize the risk of shoulder injuries.

Head injuries are another concerning issue, especially in high-speed sports like skiing and snowboarding. These can range from mild concussions to severe traumatic brain injuries. Collisions, falls, or being struck by a ski or snowboard can all result in a head injury. It's crucial to always wear a helmet when participating in these sports, regardless of your skill level or the difficulty of the slopes you're tackling. Helmets can significantly reduce the risk of serious head injuries, so never hit the slopes without one.

Prevention Tips
There is a need for more extensive studies into the prevention of skiing injuries and snowboarding, but there are common recommendations that can help:

  • Take lessons to learn proper skiing and falling response techniques.
  • Make sure you have safe and proper equipment fit for your body.
  • Wearing wrist guards to avoid serious wrist injury, like wrist fractures.
  • Stay on marked trails to avoid potentially dangerous conditions.
  • Participate in an exercise program that includes strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility, balance, and agility.
  • Rest if you are tired because severe injuries happen more often when fatigued.

Despite the efforts to prevent snowboard injuries and spinal injury, snow conditions can still be unpredictable, and accidents can occur. Our team of qualified physicians in the Lehigh Valley has extensive experience in treating sports-related injuries. In fact, our Sports Medicine Institute was voted the best Sports Medicine Team in the 2018 Morning Call Reader's Choice Awards. If you need to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors, you can call 610-973-6200 or fill out our 'Request an Appointment' form.