Common Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries

February 18, 2019

With winter's brisk, cold air having finally arrived, it’s a perfect time to hit the slopes. Skiing and snowboarding are tremendous ways to stay active during the winter. Whether you’re racing down the mountain, performing tricks in the terrain park, or jumping for big air in the halfpipe, your body is thrilled to be getting an intense workout. As with any exercise, there is a risk for injury when skiing or snowboarding. When participating in these winter sports, two of the most commonly injured areas of the body are the knee and the wrist.
 
ACL Injuries
Beginning with the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the major stabilizing ligaments located in the knee joint. The ACL functions to prevent the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur. It also stabilizes the tibia against excessive internal rotation. ACL injuries are common in skiing because of sharp twists and turns, and high impact landings. Two common mechanisms in which the ACL is injured in skiing are the phantom foot and slip-catch mechanisms.
 
The phantom foot mechanism occurs when the tail of the downhill ski, in combination with the stiff back of the ski boot, apply a combination of twisting and bending forces to the knee. The injury commonly occurs when a skier becomes off balance and is leaning too far back or while trying to get up while still moving after falling backwards.
 
In the slip-catch mechanism, a skier loses pressure on the outer ski during a turn and attempts to regain grip by extending the outer knee. The inside edge of the outer ski catches the snow abruptly, causing the knee to twist outward from the center of the body.
 
Wrist Fractures
While lower extremity injuries such as ACL injuries are less common in snowboarding, upper extremity injuries such as a wrist fracture 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.  
 
Prevention Tips
There is a need for more extensive studies into injury prevention in skiing and snowboarding, but there are common recommendations that can help:
 
  • Take lessons to learn proper skiing and falling response technique.
  • Make sure you have safe and proper equipment fit for your body.
  • Wear wrist guards to avoid serious wrist injury.
  • 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 injuries happen more often when fatigued.

Despite these prevention efforts, snow conditions can be unpredictable, and accidents happen. Our team of qualified physicians has the most extensive experience with sports-related injuries in the Lehigh Valley and our Sports Medicine Institute was voted best Sports Medicine Team in the 2018 Morning Call Reader’s Choice Awards.

To schedule an appointment with one of our doctors, call 610-973-6200 or fill out our “Request an Appointment” form.
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