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Many of our patients take a trip at some point each winter to hit the slopes. Whether you’re flying out to your favorite resort out west or packing the car and heading to Mountain Creek for the weekend, it’s important to stay safe. Because skiing isn’t something we do every day like other sports and workouts, it’s easy to get rusty and injure yourself. Here are some tips to help keep you safe this winter.
Common Injuries from Skiing
First, let’s talk about some of the most common ways people injure themselves on the slopes. While these sports injuries may result from any number of sports or exercises, they’re the ones we most often see with skiers:
When your knee bends in an unnatural way––something very easy to do when your feet are attached to skis––the ligament around your knee joint can be stretched or torn. This causes a knee sprain, one of the most frequent injuries we see in skiers.
When your arm bone is displaced from the socket of the shoulder blade, you have a dislocated shoulder. The most common cause of this particular injury is a fall.
Our instinct when we sense ourselves falling is to catch ourselves with our hands. This is bad news for our wrists, which bear the weight when we fall and easily break.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Concussions are most commonly caused by collisions and falls that cause a blow to the head. When the head is struck or crashes against something, the brain is rattled inside the skull, causing internal bruising, bleeding, and swelling. These injuries are usually temporary, but they may also be lifelong. If you believe you’ve suffered a concussion while skiing, it’s critical to get medical attention right away. Many people feel that they’re fine in the hours after an injury, only to become critically impaired from it in the days that follow. Don’t take chances when it comes to brain injuries.
This is most often caused by an accident. If you sustain a dramatic fall, hit another skier, or slide into a tree, it can result in a fractured leg bone.
Trauma to ligaments in the ankle joint can cause an ankle sprain. These injuries are often the result of slipping or twisting in an unnatural way.
Protecting Yourself from Injury
Preventing skiing injuries usually comes down to having appropriate equipment, skiing with proper care and caution, and preparing your body for the slopes. Here’s a list of steps to take to ensure that your skiing trip is a safe one:
Take a Lesson
If it’s your first skiing adventure since last winter, take a lesson before you start––even if you’re experienced. You might even be surprised to learn some new tips. A skiing lesson is especially critical for beginners, as these classes will teach you how to fall correctly and take steps to avoid the risk of injury. They’ll also give you the chance to practice in a low-pressure environment.
Stay Fit Year-Round
Skiing shouldn’t be your only means of physical activity. Stay healthy and active year-round; if you’re not in good physical condition, you’re more likely to suffer a serious injury while skiing.
Stop If You Hurt Yourself
Many skiers suffer from a minor injury and attempt to push through it––either because they’re having too much fun to stop or because they don’t want to waste the money they paid for their skiing trip. It’s important to stop and rest when you’re hurt. Pushing through will usually only make your injury worse, and could make a temporary setback into a more serious injury that could potentially last a lifetime.
Stretch and Warm Up
Before you strap on your skis, do some stretches and warm up exercises, like jogging in place or jumping jacks. Warming up can also mean doing a few easy ski runs before setting your sights on something more ambitious. Just like any other sport or workout, warming up is crucial when it comes to preventing injury.
Keep Yourself Hydrated
This simple step can help prevent muscle cramps and injuries, as well as boosting your endurance and physical ability. If cold water doesn’t appeal to you, try warm water with a squeeze of lemon juice or put your favorite herbal tea in a thermos.
Follow the Rules
For all of those injuries caused by skiing accidents, many can be prevented simply by following the rules. Don’t go off the designated trails, and make sure you know how to ski well with others––that means knowing how to merge, how to yield, and how to stop quickly when needed.
Know How to Get On and Off a Ski Lift
This is another way that people can get injured while skiing. Instead of gracefully leaving the ski lift, they let themselves fall out of the chair in a tangle of limbs, poles, and skis. Ouch. Refining this skill is another reason to take the time to go through a skiing lesson if you’re a beginner.
Use the Right Equipment
Wear a helmet and goggles––and make sure your helmet is designed for skiing, not any other sport. Different sports require different types of head protection, so a helmet for biking is not the same as a helmet for skiing. Check the binding of each of your skis before you start skiing, making sure they’re adjusted properly for your height, weight, and skill level. If you’re renting boots and bindings, make sure the ski shop follows American Society of Testing and Materials standards.
Know When to Call It Quits for the Day
When you start feeling tired, it’s time to take a break or pack it in for the day. Skiing while fatigued is more dangerous than skiing while well-rested. Difficult runs should not be the first thing you tackle right out the door, but they also shouldn’t be saved for the end of the day either when you’re feeling tired. Listen to your body.
Home Treatment of Skiing Injuries
Like any other sports injury, the RICE protocol is recommended for home treatment of any minor injury. Of course, use common sense: broken bones and brain injuries should always be treated by a medical professional. But muscle pulls and strains can often be treated by the following:
- Rest – This can be difficult when you’re supposed to be making the most of a ski vacation, but it’s important to take the time to rest the injured area so it can recover properly. Persisting through an injury will only make it worse, not better.
- Ice – When you’re cold from being out in the snow all day, this might not be very appealing, but cold therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat sports injuries. It reduces the inflammation that causes pain.
- Compression – Use a brace or wrap to put pressure on your injury. You can often find these at the ski shop.
- Elevation – Whenever possible, raise the injured area above the heart. This limits blood flow to the area, which is helpful in controlling swelling.
While RICE is the standard for treating sports injuries, sometimes sore muscles and back pain respond to heating pads or warm compresses, or a combination of hot and cold therapy. Feel free to try this if you think it will help, but note that if you have swelling around the injury, cold therapy is preferable to applying heat, as this can increase the swelling.
Regenerative Medicine for Skiing Injuries
Once you’ve returned home from your skiing trip, your injury should resolve given adequate rest and recovery. Sometimes, skiing injuries don’t get better in the days and weeks after you get home.
If the pain is either the same as when you sustained the injury or getting worse, it’s a sign that medical attention is needed. Swelling and tenderness that does not go away, a limited range of motion, and feelings of tingling, burning, or numbness are also your body’s way of telling you that there’s something wrong. If you continually re-injure the area, are unable to return to your normal activities, or you feel that the injury is having an impact on your day-to-day life, a physical therapist or sports medicine specialist can help.
At CORE Medical & Wellness, we employ a number of innovative non-surgical treatment options for sports injuries caused by skiing and other activities. We are leaders in the field of sports medicine, using advanced regenerative medicine procedures to bolster your body’s ability to heal itself. Our practice offers the following types of treatments for sports injuries:
- Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections
- Stem Cell Treatment
- Nerve Blocks and Epidurals
- Trigger Point Injections
- Lubrication Joint Injections
- Spinal Cord Stimulators
- Radio Frequency Ablations
- Cervical and Lumbar Discography