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  • Writer's pictureDr. Terrell Joseph

Common Injuries for Skiers and Snowboarders (and How to Avoid Them)

The slopes have opened in Vail, and our winter season has officially begun. Unfortunately, that also means the offices at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery are about to see an influx of skiers and snowboarders injured on the hill.

Here are the most common injuries for skiers and snowboarders and how you can avoid them.

Common Injuries for Skiers and Snowboarders

Skiing and snowboarding are the two most popular winter sports. They are also the most dangerous. For skiers, the most two most common injuries are:

  • Strains and Tears to Knee Ligaments: ACL and MCL tears are the most common skiing injuries. This is because when you rotate and torque your knee at the same time, the force is transferred through the stiff boot to the next mobile joint - the knee. Both the ACL and MCLs can strain or tear when pressure is placed on them at an unnatural angle.

  • Skier’s Thumb: The ski pole is held between the thumb and the index finger. If the pole gets tangled in a fall, this can place extra stress on the thumb and tear the ulnar collateral ligament. This is known as “skier's thumb,” and a strain or tear to this ligament causes pain when pinching and gasping.

While the majority of skiing injuries impact the knee ligaments, snowboarding injuries tend to focus more on the upper extremities. The typical injuries we see in snowboarders fall into two categories:

  • Wrist Injuries: During a fall, the natural instinct is to catch yourself. By extending your arms to break your fall, you risk placing pressure from your entire body onto your wrist. This can result in a sprain or fracture. In fact, wrist injuries account for 28% of all snowboarding injuries (25% of which happen during a new snowboarder’s first three days on the mountain).

  • Shoulder Injuries: Shoulder fractures, dis locations, separations, and rotator cuff tears are common in snowboarders. Like wrist injuries, these typically result from landing incorrectly after a fall.

Elbow contusions and broken collarbones are other injuries treated primarily in snowboarders, but they are not as common as injuries to the wrist and shoulder.

Preventing Injuries in Winter Sports

The majority of ski and snowboard injuries are caused by:

  • Falls

  • Collisions

  • Lift accidents

  • Dangerous terrain

More often than not, these injuries occur towards the end of the day when fatigue and dehydration have taken hold. Aside from listening to your body and taking frequent water breaks, here are some steps skiers and snowboarders can take to prevent injuries on the mountain.

  1. Wear Protective Gear: Helmets, knee braces, and wrist guards are essential for preventing traumatic injuries in winter athletes. This is especially true for new snowboarders and skiers returning to the slopes after a knee injury.

  2. Stay in Control: Check your speed and stay off terrain that is outside your ability level. Also, pay attention to the weather. A trail that was easy on a powder day may be significantly harder in more icy conditions.

  3. Be Aware of Your Surroundings: Collisions cause some of the worst injuries on the mountain. These could be collisions with objects (such as a tree) or with people. Pay close attention to where you are on the mountain in regards to other people and terrain.

  4. Stretch: It’s important to warm up your body before any prolonged period of activity. Stretching also can help prevent muscle tears, tendon tears, and overuse-type injuries associated with using muscles uncommonly stressed. With skiing and snowboarding, make sure to focus on your hamstrings and quads.

Skiing and snowboarding are fantastic sports where you can experience the beauty of the Vail Valley. Taking these simple, proactive measures will help prevent injuries so you can enjoy your day on the slopes.

Injured on Mountain? Contact Team Joseph Today!

If you do sustain an injury while skiing or snowboarding, Dr. Joseph and his team will help get you back on your feet. With years of orthopaedic experience, Dr. Joseph can diagnose your injury quickly and get you the treatment you need! Contact Team Joseph today to make your appointment.


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