Preventing Skiing & Snowboarding Injuries
The yearly arrival of snow gives people the opportunity to participate in winter sports of all kinds. While thrilling, snow-based activities also come with the possibility of sustaining an injury. After all, fast speeds, slippery surfaces and vulnerable ligaments make for a tricky combination! That said, according to statistics on ski-injury.com, only about 4 in one thousand people on the slopes per day will sustain an injury that requires professional medical attention.
Unfortunately, some of these injuries can be quite serious and persistent. The most common slope injuries include head injury, knee injuries, shoulder injuries, spinal injuries, as well as thumb and wrist injuries. Treatments vary from something as simple as RICE (rest, ice, compress and elevate), to more significant approaches such as surgery, lifelong medical ligament bracing and even hospitalization. A little caution and a few prevention tips can help you avoid a ski injury or snowboard injury that can keep you from enjoying the rest of the season. Here are a few of the best ways to stay safe.
Check the Weather
Before hitting the ski slopes, check the weather report. You should always research the weather conditions before hitting the slopes, even if it seems fine outside. Consider foregoing icy conditions, extremely deep powder snow, and wet snow as these environments enhance the likelihood for injury. If a major storm is on the horizon, consider staying home or participating in an indoor activity. If youíre already enjoying a winter sport when a storm arrives, head to the lodge or your car as soon as possible. Also despite the wintry weather, be sure to wear sunscreen. Whenever you spend time outdoors, you are exposed to UV rays. Apply a 30 SPF sunscreen to all exposed skin to avoid sunburn.
Wear Proper Safety Equipment
Itís common to suffer from falls when enjoying winter activities. As such, itís vital to ensure you wear the proper safety equipment. If you intend to ski or snowboard, then be sure to wear a helmet that fits your head properly. Also, if you wear a knit cap to keep your head warm when youíre spending time outdoors in the winter, make sure that your helmet fits securely with the knit cap in place. If you have a lingering injury, such as a torn ligament, equip the compromised joint with a supportive hinged knee brace.
Itís especially important to equip your children with safety gear. When it comes to snow sports, children are at particularly high risk of injury. After all, kids lack the muscle control and personal judgment that comes with experience. They can make reckless decisions or simply struggle with manual dexterity. Approximately 35% of all snow sport injuries involve children and for this reason, it is critical that children wear helmets when they are participating in skiing or snowboarding. While harder to find, childrenís wrist guards are extremely helpful as well, particularly with snowboarding.
Take Lessons from a Professional
Professional instruction is worth the investment. Especially if youíre a winter sports novice, be sure to take lessons from an expert. Allow them to teach you the basics to help you develop good (i.e. safe) habits and techniques. Beginner skiers are at a higher risk of injury, so taking this precautionary step will pay off in the long run. An expert will also make sure that you have the right equipment to participate in winter sports safely. Begin slowly and be patient with yourself.
Use Quality Sports Equipment
High-quality equipment that is in good condition will help you stay safe. Use equipment professionally adjusted to your physique. If you own your equipment, have it checked regularly - at least once a season - by a professional. Equipment will warp after sitting for months in storage, and accidents happen when ski bindings or poles break. Never borrow gear from a friend as this increases the likelihood of an accident by an incredible 800%.
If you rent, make sure you have a professional adjust the gear to fit you perfectly. When they ask your ability, never overstate as this will affect your bindings and ski length significantly. If you are unsure or have been out of practice for more than one season, err on the side of "beginner / intermediate". Boots should fit snug against the ankleÖ too loose and your ankle can twist or worse.
Prepare Your Body Beforehand
If your body is out of shape, then youíll be more accident-prone when you participate in winter sports. Throughout the year, keep your core strong with abdominal and spine exercises. When your core is strong, it will help you stay balanced and stable. Be sure to warm up your body before you start a winter sport. If your muscles, ligaments or tendons are cold, then an injury is more likely.
You can also wear sport braces, mouth guards and compression socks when you head out to play in the snow. Winter sports medical support equipment like braces add stability to your ankles and knees while mouth guards protect your teeth and jaw. Compression socks can also improve your athletic performance by increasing the flow of oxygen to your bloodstream and by improving blood flow to and from the muscles in your legs.
Always warm up before hitting the slopes. Before your first run, take a few minutes to gently stretch out your legs, especially your hamstrings, quads, and hips. Hold each stretch for approximately 30 seconds. Each stretch should feel pleasantly firm but not painful. After you stretch, suit up in your safety gear, including any medical braces for previous injuries, then start your day on the mountain with a few lighter runs to get your blood flowing.
If itís been a while since you have hit the slopes, brush up on proper form. Always keep your hands forward, knees slightly bent and your weight centered over your skies. If you fall, do not try to get back up while still moving. Wait until your body comes to a complete stop. If you are still learning or it has been a couple years, consider taking a class from a professional.
Take regular breaks throughout the day. Snow sports are so much fun it is easy to lose track of time. Between the fun and Adrenalin, it is difficult to feel how tired by muscles might be. Many avid skiers and snowboarders will keep active all day, not fully registering just how tired their body is. A fatigued body is more susceptible to injury and that is why most adult injuries occur after lunchtime, when our bodies are exhausted. Regular breaks will allow you to rest, and recover.
Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
Take note of danger signs while on the mountain, and be sure to pay attention to your surroundings to avoid injury. Often, people are hurt by colliding with each other. Winter activities that take place on the ski slopes put you at risk of striking a tree, slope indicators or even a resort lift.
Plan for a fall by considering how youíll do it if it happens. For instance, if you feel yourself falling, attempt to roll into it naturally, and shift your head in the direction that youíre falling. This step could decrease the severity of an injury. It could even help you avoid being hurt all together.
If you hit your head, visit your doctor to make sure that youíre not suffering from a concussion or other dangerous head injury. Slight soreness and mild pain can be managed with heat or ice. You can also take over-the-counter pain medication.
Donít Forget to Use Common Sense
As with any outdoor activity, it is best not to go alone. You may fall and become incapacitated. Always have a partner and ensure that you keep within sight of each other just in case trouble arises. Do not stray off marked slopes or paths as you may encounter exposed rocks, vegetation, steep slopes, avalanche areas or even dangerous cliffs.
Assess your limitations, and make sure that your children know theirs as well. If you let your young children play outside on snow or ice, supervise them closely. When it comes to playing in the snow on snowmobiles or ATVs, do not allow children who are six years old or younger to ride on them. In addition, those who drive these vehicles should be 16 years old or older.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission confirms that more than 290,000 people visited the hospital for winter sports-related injuries in 2014. Stay out of the hospital by maintaining your strength, sports equipment and skill level. If you do, youíll be healthy enough to participate in your favorite winter sports throughout the season.
Exercises for Preventing Skiing Injuries
If you're a skier, preventing ski injuries shouldn't begin on the slopes. Though there are plenty of ways to stay safe when you're on the mountain, there are also a number of exercises that will prepare you for the upcoming ski season and help ensure that you remain healthy throughout the winter and into spring. Of course these exercises are also great during the season, but hitting the mountain before strengthening the muscles you use most could lead to injuries that could have otherwise been avoided. Check out our exercises for preventing ski injuries so you'll be ready for whatever terrain you come across.
Strengthening your core is a good idea for any sport, but the workouts will depend on the sport you're training for. Holding proper form is important while skiing, so doing workouts that will improve your endurance in these positions is helpful.
Planks are a great exercise for your abs, back, and stabilizer muscles. Simply get in a push up position, except with your elbows on the ground instead of your hands. Hold that position for a specific amount of time, which will equal one set. You may only be able to do 15 or 20 seconds when you first start off, but over a few weeks you should shoot for holding a plank for a minute or more.
Skiing is tough on your legs, particularly your quads. Leaning forward and being on your toes for long periods of time will require strong quads, and lunges will help you build up strength in your legs that will translate well on the mountain.
Start with your feet side by side and your hands on your hips. Lunge forward with one foot, bending your front knee and making sure not to let your back knee touch the floor. Ideally, you want your back shin to be parallel to the floor, but if you can't get that low, you can work towards it over time. As you gain more strength, you start doing lunges while holding dumbbells, or with a barbell on your shoulders.
If you have had knee or ankle issues in the past or just want extra peace of mind when you're training, MMAR offers a range of performance braces for snow sports, such as the DonJoy Reaction brace, that will help keep your safe.
Cardio & Flexibility
Proper cardio is necessary for just about any sport, including skiing. If you have access to a gym, using the elliptical mimics the motion you would make in cross country skiing, but if you donít have access to this equipment, just getting your heart rate up in general is important, whether you're running, biking, jumping rope, or any other cardio exercise.
Finally, be sure to stretch before and after your workouts. These workouts are great for avoiding injuries when you're skiing, but if you're not taking the proper precautions while exercising, you can get injured before you even get to hit the slopes.
MMAR Medical supplies medical equipment for a wide range of sports including skiing and snowboarding braces. Visit our store for our complete selection of sports braces.
Best Knee Braces for Skiing
Winter sports are unforgiving on your knees. Between moguls, jumps, and staying in proper stance, both skiing and snowboarding are serious leg work outs and can be particularly stressful for those with bad knees. While itís impossible to completely protect yourself from injury on the mountain, there are incredibly useful braces that will give you the extra stability that you may have lost in a previous injury. Always remember that there is no substitute for strong legs when it comes to skiing and snowboarding, so even if you do have an injury, itís important to make sure that youíre in shape before you hop on a ski lift for your first run of the season. But if you still need that extra insurance, these are some great knee braces for skiing and snowboarding:
DonJoyís ski brace was specifically designed for skiers and those who will be wearing two knee braces at the same time. If you have suffered an ACL injury in the past, the likelihood of sustaining another knee injury while skiing is three to four times more if you arenít wearing a knee brace. This version of brace is 15Ē so you can wear it comfortably with ski boots, and the construction keeps the hinges from getting caught in your snow pants.
DonJoy FullForce ACL Knee Brace
If an ACL injury isnít your issue, the DonJoy FullForce is a great option. Available in several different versions, the FullForce can provide support for injuries related to ACL, MCL, PCL, LCL, and hyperextension. This is one of our favorite braces for skiing and snowboarding because it is offered in a short version to keep the brace free from ski and snowboard boots and give you slightly better range of motion in general.
DonJoy Reaction Web Knee Brace
If you donít need advanced support for a previous ACL or PCL injury and are just looking to ease the pain of sprain, prevent any potential injuries from occurring, or protect against patella injuries, the DonJoy Reaction Web Knee Brace fits your criteria. The Reaction is a lightweight, soft brace that offers just enough support to give you peace of mind, while remaining comfortable enough that it doesnít affect your performance on the mountain.
Donít let an injury keep you from the slopes. MMAR Medical has a huge selection of winter sports braces that will keep your knees protected from even the most demanding conditions this winter.