We have experienced record amounts of snowfall this year and if you are craving deep powder, historically February and March are the best months to ski in Utah. Spring skiing in March is especially nice for those wanting to enjoy the warmer temps, ski with the sun on their backs and still experience some bountiful snowfalls. If you are not careful or properly prepared for winter sports, however, you may find yourself with an injury that keeps you indoors the rest of the season.
Despite vast improvements in equipment design, training regiments, and facilities, injuries on the mountain are common. From 1994-1999, Dr. Larson had the privilege of working as a member of the medical team for the World Pro Ski Tour and saw some amazing athletes and races. Even among the professional skiers, the likelihood of ACL injury was 28%. Having years of training and expensive equipment does not protect an individual from injury. In order to really prepare for winter sports, it is important to understand the common injuries caused by these winter sports and how to prevent them.
Today, the rate of injury in skiing approximates 3 skiers per 1,000 skiers in a single day. Injuries that are popular among skiers include but are not limited to:
- ACL tear. The anterior cruciate ligament or the ACL provides 85% of the stability of the knee, so tearing it either partially or completely can cause pain, swelling, and loss of functionality. Certain movements that tend to cause ACL tears include landing flat-footed, overextending your knee joint, or changing direction abruptly.
- Meniscal tears. The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that provides a cushion between your femur and tibia. These menisci can be damaged or torn when a large amount of pressure is put on the knee joint or if there is a sudden rotation in the knee. Taking a hard fall or getting up too quickly can result in a meniscus tear.
While the patterns of injury in snowboarding differs from skiers, the overall injury rate is similar and approximates 4 to 6 injuries per 1,000 snowboarders in a single day. It is important to mention that winter sports-related injuries are not specific to either skiers or snowboarders. Knee injuries are more common among skiers, but that does not mean snowboarders cannot injure their knee.
The most common injuries among snowboarders include:
- Shoulder dislocations/fractures. These upper extremity injuries typically occur when a snowboarder falls and lands the wrong way.
- Wrist fracture. Snowboarders’ wrists are broken when they fall on their outstretched hands. The pressure on the wrist bones is too great and these consequently break.
Causes of Injuries
- Skier experience and ability. Beginner skiers are four times as likely to be injured than advanced skiers.
- Type and function of ski equipment. The most important item of ski equipment from a safety standard is the ski binding. Statistics show that 30 to 40% of injuries occur when the binding on a ski does not release appropriately.
- Age. Younger skiers are more likely to be injured than older skiers, most likely because of risky behavior.
- Fatigue. Skiing for too long increases vulnerability to injury. Dr. Larson recommends conditioning your body through exercise throughout the year since well-trained recreational skiers are less likely to sustain an injury than those who get exhausted easily over the course of a skiing day.
- Snow conditions. Icier locations decrease the incidence of lower-body injuries, while packed powder snow specifically leads to an increase in injuries related to the tibia.
If you have experienced a winter sports injury, Dr. Larson is here to help you get back on the slopes. Give us a call at 435-774-8512 to schedule your appointment!