West Valley Medical Center - December 01, 2016

By John Q. Smith, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

550 Calories Per Hour:
The amount of calories a 175-pound person can burn skiing.

Skiing — it’s one of those winter sports that people either love, or they’re terrified of it. For those who love it, skiing is a great way to stay in shape when jogging, swimming, baseball, and other warm-weather sports are less of an option.

But, as with any other sport, hitting the slopes comes with a chance of injury. That’s why ski safety is so important. Knowing what you’re up against can reduce your risk of injury.

4 Common Skiing Orthopedic Injuries

Sprains vs fractures:
What's the difference?
A sprain involves torn or stretched ligaments, which connect your bones together. A fracture means a break in the bone itself.

1. Leg Fractures and Sprains

The most common leg injuries from skiing are sprains, followed by fractures, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Leading causes of fractured shin and thighbones include falls and collisions. And fractures are generally more common in older skiers because their bones are more brittle, says the ACSM.

2.Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Damage

Your MCL connects your shinbone to your thighbone. MCL injuries are the most common skiing knee injuries, says the ACSM. You can damage your MCL if you twist while falling. You can also stress this ligament if you stay in a bent-knee position for unusually long periods of time.

The good news is that almost all MCL sprains can be treated simply by wearing a brace that limits your use of the ligament until it is healed. Then you can get back to the slopes.

3.Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Damage

The ACL, located in the middle of the knee, stops your shin bone from sliding in front of your thigh bone. A torn or ruptured ACL is a more painful and complicated skiing injury. The ACSM says this particular injury can happen if you fall backward while your lower leg continues in a forward motion.

ACL injuries generally require surgery to repair the tear. And recovery involves rehabilitation to make sure the tear heals correctly. With time and rehab, you may be able to ski again in the future.

Arm and shoulder injuries comprise 30% - 40% of all skiing injuries.

4.Hand Fractures and Sprains

Believe it or not, the thumb is an especially vulnerable joint. In fact, thumb ligament injuries are the second most common skiing injuries, surpassed only by MCL injuries in the knee.

Most people injure their thumbs when they fall while still holding the ski pole. When they fall, their thumb is pulled painfully forward to the point of injury.

Why would you get injured while skiing?

You’re not in shape

Training properly during the off season can delay or prevent muscle fatigue, a top cause of injury, when you hit the slopes.

Muscle fatigue leaves you feeling sore or weak. Some people think pushing through the pain is a good idea. But in fact, you can seriously injure yourself.

Stretching and strength training can help keep your muscles from tiring out too quickly. Also important, cardio can help your heart stay in shape for the exertion skiing requires.

You’re already exhausted

Physical and mental fatigue are also leading causes of injury, because they can cause you to make poor or inaccurate judgments of your body’s limits.

Never deny your current state. Be realistic in what you can expect of your body.

You don’t have the right equipment

Not wearing the right protective gear is a recipe for disaster. Basic skiing equipment includes:

  • Skis
  • Boots
  • Poles
  • Goggles
  • Helmet
  • Gloves

You break the rules

If the course you’re skiing says to stay off of a certain trail, listening is not only the right thing to do. It’s also a way to protect yourself from injury. Rules and restrictions are in place for a reason. Ignoring warning signs can lead to serious injury.

Source: Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention

How can you prevent skiing-related orthopedic injuries?

5 Ways to reduce your risk of orthopedic injuries while skiing:

  • Take rest breaks
  • Know your physical limits
  • Stay hydrated
  • Stay on course
  • Follow safety warnings

If you’re new to skiing—or haven’t been on the slopes for a while—taking skiing lessons is a great way to learn the proper techniques to reduce your risk of injury.

Wearing and using the right equipment is important, too. Look for gear that fits you properly and is sold by a certified ski shop.

And listen to your gut. Don’t try moves that you’re not totally comfortable with. Protecting yourself from injuries is the best way to make sure you can ski as much as you want this season.