We’ve just past our shortest day of the year and the days are getting colder, but it’s not all doom and gloom out there, snow is on the way! We have just experienced Australia’s best start to a snow season in 18 years which is exciting for skiers! Along with this excitement sometimes comes the disappointment of injury. Each year we see many snow related injuries coming into the clinic, often on a Monday morning after a weekend at Mt Buller, Mt Hotham or Falls Creek. Most injuries either happen very early in the day, or later in the day, and there are a few reasons why this is the case.
Snow sports are not generally sports for which we consider warming up before we start. We expect to be able to glide down the mountain with no training in the lead up. Or maybe we are a little naïve as to exactly what is required physically to tackle our favourite run on the mountain.
Here are some of the most common injuries associated with skiing/boarding and how they are likely to occur:
1) Wrist fractures/sprains – The beginner snowboarder’s injury. Unfortunately, a lot of us spend time on the ground when first boarding and that involves a lot of falling forward onto our hands. A great investment is wrist guards, particularly for first time boarders. Fractures of the wrist are also common in the carpark slipping on sections of ice, so be careful!
2) Knee Injuries – Most commonly affected is our dreaded anterior cruciate ligament and/or medial collateral ligament. This is more prevalent in skiers than boarders. Knee injuries usually occur from twisting movements such as contact from another skier/boarder, being caught in soft snow, or your ski bindings failing to release when they are most needed.
3) Skier’s thumb – Is damage to a main ligament around the base of our thumb. Occurs when a skier falls onto the ground with a pole in their hand. Ligament injuries to this area vary considerably and are often poorly treated, resulting in poor outcome. If you injure this area seek treatment sooner rather than later as a splint may have to be applied.
4) Concussion – Due to current technology in modern helmets, concussion is less common, but still occurs. We aren’t always blessed with soft, powdery snow conditions in Australia and are often negotiating hard, icy surfaces. Typical concussion symptoms are headache, confusion, lack of coordination, memory loss, nausea and dizziness. If you are in doubt, ensure you are assessed by a medical professional.
5) Shoulder dislocations – Commonly caused by falling forward onto an outstretched shoulder in front or to the side. It is best to have the shoulder relocated by a professional if it does not go back into place by itself. Research suggests that just as much damage can be caused by the relocation of a shoulder joint as from the dislocation itself. Medical staff on the mountain see many of these each season.
The good news is a lot of these injuries can be avoided. Taking care whilst skiing and boarding and being aware of your ability and limitations will go a long way to reducing the risk of injury.
The slopes are a great physical and social activity on so many levels. I hope you all have a safe and enjoyable winter and get out there to enjoy it as much as I will!