Over the past fifteen to twenty years, improvements in skiing equipment and studies into the causes of skiing injuries have contributed towards a decrease in the rate of injuries sustained by amateur skiers. By far the most commonly injured body part for skiers is the knee.
All beginner skiers are advised to undertake lessons from qualified ski instructors prior to traveling to their ski destination and certainly before venturing out on the slopes alone. Taking this advice can cut the risk of injury literally in half.
Wearing the proper equipment and maintaining it is important in avoiding injury whilst skiing. Boots are the most important item to get right in terms of avoiding injury and they are now widely available with varying features to accommodate for all foot shapes and knee positions. Getting the right boot will help avoid overuse injury. The boot-binding release system should also be checked and adjusted before each trip to ensure they function correctly.
There are certain rules which must be abided by when using the slopes. Most of these rules are universal to all ski resorts. The most important of these in order to avoid injury is observing the terrain-rating scale which indicates the difficulty of a run. Skiers should not attempt a slope which is more advanced than their skills as this may well result in injury.
Common Skiing Injuries
An ACL rupture is the most common skier’s knee injury and usually happens during a fall where a high twisting force is placed on the knee. The skier will complain of severe initial pain, swelling, and instability. Skiers have been known to continue skiing following an ACL rupture, as instability is often masked by the swelling around the joint. Stability may only be affected when turning initially. Learn more about ACL injuries.
Knee cartilage injuries are also common in skiers due to the rotational forces placed on the knee when turning. Damage is usually to one of the menisci (rings of cartilage sitting on top of the Tibia, within the knee joint). These injuries are often associated with damage to other structures, especially the medial collateral ligament when the medial meniscus is torn. Find out more about cartilage injuries.
After knee injuries, shoulder injuries are the second most common skiing injuries. Shoulder dislocations usually occur as a result of falling onto an outstretched hand, producing an anterior shoulder dislocation. All shoulder dislocations should be reduced (‘popped back in’) as soon as possible, but only by a medical professional and usually following an x-ray to check for other associated injuries. The arm should then be immobilised for a short period. Learn more about shoulder dislocations.
AC joint separation
This is another common shoulder injury, which occurs most regularly from falling onto the point of the shoulder. The injury is due to tears of the acromioclavicular ligament and possibly also the coracoclavicular ligament, in more severe cases. The most obvious symptom is a step deformity, where the clavicle is raised, producing a bony lump on top of the shoulder. Find out more about AC joint separations.
Injuries to the thumb make up 40% of injuries to the arm during skiing. The vast majority of thumb injuries are due to damage to the ulnar collateral ligament of the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint (the first joint of the thumb, between the thumb and hand). When skiing, this kind of injury results from the skier falling onto an outstretched hand whilst still holding their pole in the hand. Learn more about skiers thumb.