Hitting the slopes? Tips for avoiding ski injuries

Whether on skis or snowboard, hitting the slopes can be a fun fitness adventure for just about any weekend warrior. But, the downhill fun doesn’t come without risk. According to Cody Olson, DO, an orthopedic surgeon with Banner Orthopedic Surgery Specialists, novice and expert snow seekers alike should take caution when taking to the ski lifts.

“One of the most important tips for preventing an injury is to know and ski within you abilities,” he said.

Olson also stresses the importance of having the right equipment and wearing proper protective gear. Helmets, he says, are a must for everyone – skiers and snowboarders. Similarly, having updated, properly functioning equipment is imperative.

But even with the right equipment, Olson concedes that injury is always a looming threat.

“Hitting stationary objects such as trees, other skiers, ski park fencing and falling are among the most common causes of injury on the slopes,” he noted.

Olson says injuries most frequently associated with skiing and snowboarding are:

  • Knee injuries, particularly anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and media collateral ligament (MCL) injuries related to twisting
  • Shoulder injuries such as dislocations and sprains that occur when using one’s arms to break a fall
  • Fractures around the shoulder, wrist and/or lower leg resulting from a fall
  • Concussions

He says snowboarders are 30 percent more likely to suffer a head injury. Experts say that as much as 40 percent of all head injuries that occur while skiing and snowboarding could be prevented by simply wearing a helmet.

Bottom line, Olson says, is to be prepared and proceed with caution. Tailor your skiing/snowboarding adventure to your fitness and experience level, wear the proper gear, warm up before strapping on your boots and don’t overexert yourself.

While a bit of muscle soreness is rather common after skiing and snowboarding, Olson urges anyone who experiences joint swelling following a day on the slopes to see a doctor.

“Soreness can likely be managed with ice and rest, but swelling in the joints is a sign that something more serious may be going on.”