Contrary to popular belief, snow sports have a surprising low injury rate when compared to other sports. Thanks to a vast improvement in equipment, an upgrade in facilities and a greater awareness of the dangers of taking to the piste or half-pipe, the injury rates continue to drop year-on-year.
However, accidents do still happen. Here ‘s a breakdown of the five most prolific skiing and snowboarding injuries to watch out for:
ACL and MCL injuries
Knee injuries are the most common injuries in snow sports, accounting for a third of all injuries. This is due to the dramatically increased level of cushion impacts and shock the knees have to endure, as well as supporting and stabilising the rest of the body.
The reason why ACL and MCL injuries in particular are so common – and continue to increase – is because there are so many circumstances that an individual could be faced with on the slopes that create sudden knee trauma: from landing improperly after a jump, to colliding with another skier, to being unable to hold your stance, to simply falling over.
And you don’t have to be pelting down the slopes to develop an ACL or MCL injury: it can be even more dangerous to be traveling slowly and cautiously. Ski bindings are designed to release the boots from the skis when certain force limits are exceeded, but they often fail to release at slower speeds.
Upper Limb Injuries in snowboarding
While the knee is the most vulnerable joint in skiers, it is relatively well protected during snowboarding as both feet are strapped to the same board and facing in the same direction. In fact, in snowboarding the upper extremities are most prone to injury, particularly the wrist. Elbow dislocations, shoulder rotator cuff injuries, broken collarbones and concussions are all typical snowboarding injuries.
Fortius Shoulder Surgeon Mr Steven Corbett, in a recent lecture evening, explained that ‘the incidence of clavicular, greater tuberosity and humeral fractures has increased in the last 10 years and might be an indication of the type of snow conditions ‘. He also commented that ‘clavicular fractures are much more common on ice, whereas knee injuries tend to be more common in powder snow - this may also be indicative of the speed of the participants'.
The lower back takes a lot of strain while skiing, and a poor posture and/or a muscle imbalance on the piste can result in a dull ache and stiffness after the skiing holiday is over – which could develop into a sharper pain if the recipient doesn’t undergo a sufficient period of rest.
An ulnar collateral ligament tear – otherwise known as ‘Skier’s Thumb’ – is a rip in the ligament that supports the thumb when pinching or gripping. Its name comes from the fact that the most common cause of the injury is when sufferers fall upon their outstretched thumb – something that happens a lot when skiers take a spill while gripping their ski poles. Partial tears can be treated with a splint or cast, while a more severe or complete tear will require surgery.
A fractured clavicle can be a very painful and serious injury, requiring immediate medical attention. It is usually the result of a bad fall onto the arm or shoulder or a collision can result in a broken collarbone.
Whatever trouble you can get into on the snow, you can rest assured that specialist treatment for skiing injuries has improved considerably. The Fortius Clinic Ski Injuries Service, based in London, is a dedicated service for snow sports enthusiasts of all abilities who require treatment, and can deliver a rapid and effective specialist solution.