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Tips on how to avoid injury on the slopes this season

14th January 2013 Print

The frosty debate about whether skiing or snowboarding is the most superior winter sport rumbles on, and off, the piste; does one ruin the quality of the snow for the other? Can you be good at both? Is snowboarding ‘cooler’ than skiing?

Skiing has traditionally and historically been seen as the winter sport of choice but with the rise of popularity in snowboarding in the 1990s’ the risk of slope-related sports injuries may also have increased due to the number of people hitting the slopes and the upsurge of beginners learning how to snowboard.

“Whether you prefer the speed of skiing or the tricks and jumps of snowboarding, everyone should be aware of the possible injuries that could occur during both,” comments Sarah Tribe, National Lead of Physiotherapy at BMI Healthcare.

“Although seen as leisure activities as part of a holiday, these are both serious sports that can cause different types of injuries, so it is always best to be prepared and understand the variations between the two sports.”

Common winter sports ailments can be in the form of injuries to the head and face, knee, shoulder, ankle, back, injuries to the wrist, and even to the thumb. Sprains, fractures, joint injuries, lacerations and contusions are all injuries that can be caused whilst taking part in winter sports.

BMI Healthcare can offer skiers and snowboarders orthopaedic and physiotherapy treatments and advice, and shares its top tips on how to avoid injury on the slopes from the beginning:

1 Beginners should always take lessons from a professional before they attempt to ski or snowboard. They will be taught how to use the equipment safely whilst getting the most from the sport.

2 It’s crucial to learn how to fall correctly to prevent any injury when skiing and snowboarding. You should never put your arms out to catch yourself as the impact and pressure on fingers and wrists can break the bone. Whether falling forwards or backwards always ensure you bring your arms in close to your chest and fall onto your chest, back or shoulder.

3 Use equipment that matches your size and skill level, for example ski boots, winter sports clothing including a jacket, trousers and goggles, and ensure all the equipment is correct for the type of activity you are doing.

4 Adults and children should wear safety gear including wrist guards and a helmet, and off-piste skiers should take extra precautions with safety equipment .

5 Make sure to also stay hydrated throughout the day, regularly drinking water and avoiding alcohol.

6 Make sure you warm up properly before skiing or snowboarding to avoid injury. Before putting on your gear, warm up and stretch the thigh, calf and arm muscles. Start each day on the slopes with some easy runs to loosen up and do this after each rest break as well.

“Skiing and snowboarding should be enjoyable, and as long as you take all necessary safety precautions when attempting either, major injuries can be avoided” Sarah Tribe concludes.

If you are unlucky enough to sustain an injury though, immediately follow the P.R.I.C.E principles:

Protection - use strapping or a support for comfort and to protect the area

Rest - rest the injured area

Ice - apply ice packs for 10 minutes every hour

Compress - use tubigrip or a compression bandage to help reduce the swelling - but not too tight! Check toes and fingers regularly for colour and temperature; remove the compression dressing at night.

Elevate - elevate or raise the injured part, ideally above the heart to help disperse swelling.