It’s that time of year again: the powder is fresh in the mountains, and most of us can’t wait to hit the slopes. However, with the enjoyment of skiing or snowboarding comes the risk of injury. On average, between two and four out of 1,000 skiers are injured on the slopes in the United States every day, according to the UC Davis Health Sports Medicine group.
The injury rate is similar for rowing. For skiers, the good news is that improvements in technology have reduced the risk of injury. Curved skis helped people learn faster and maintain better control. A fracture of the leg above the shoe (tibia or fibula fracture) is rare.
But knee injuries, shoulder injuries, and finger injuries (like skier’s finger) still happen. For snowboarders, wrist, shoulder and shoulder injuries are more common. Snowboarders extend their arms more when they fall because both feet are locked to the board. To help you stay safe on the slopes, here are some tips to avoid injury:
- Regular exercise and cardio exercises can help you prevent injuries. Staying in shape is important. We have a list of exercises below to help you strengthen your muscles and core.
- Warm up your muscles before going down the hill. Cold muscles are more prone to injury. Gently stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps (thigh muscles), hips and calves before and after skiing or snowboarding.
- Wear a helmet. If you do fall, a properly fitting helmet can reduce the risk of head injury while skiing and snowboarding. Helmets can also provide protection if you fall into an uncontrolled collision.
It is also important to stay hydrated before, during and after skiing or snowboarding.
- When renting or buying ski or snowboard equipment, don’t overestimate your skill level. Make sure you have the right equipment for you and your abilities. Use ski poles without straps. This will allow you to leave the stick in an accident and avoid the trap that causes injuries to the fingers and arms.
- Rest when you are tired. Most injuries occur after lunch when fatigue sets in. Wear warm clothing to keep you warm, and sunglasses and/or goggles to protect your eyes. Although the sun’s UV rays may not be as strong in the winter, sunscreen is still important as the reflection of snow increases the effects of UV rays. You are also at a higher altitude, which makes the effect of the sun even better.
Snowboarders should consider wearing wrist protection to protect themselves in the event of a fall.
5 Activities to help Prevent Skiing and Snow injuries!
There are some exercises you can do at home to keep your body in shape for winter fun. Here are some recommendations from our sports medicine team to help you avoid injuries to your lower body:
Start by lying on your stomach and come up on your toes and knees with your hands on the floor. Keep your knees and shoulders in a straight line. Squeeze your glutes and make sure your stomach doesn’t drop, but also make sure your head isn’t raised in the air. Put your whole heart into it. Your body should be like a straight line between your feet and your head. Get on the skateboard to strengthen your core muscles.
2. Superman Stability Ball
On a stability ball, lie on your stomach with your toes touching the floor. Raise your body and place your arms in front of your head. Keep your whole body in a straight line. Exercise strengthens your spinal cord, or all the muscles in your back. This includes the back muscles, glutes, hamstrings and core. Strengthening these muscles is important because they help you stay upright when going down a slope.
3. Stability Ball Bridge / Loop
Lie on your back with the back of the ankle area on the stability ball. Apply pressure to the ball while lifting your hips, keeping your shoulders, neck, and head on the floor. You can lift and hold, which focuses on kicking your legs and core. Or you can do a curl by bringing the ball back to you while bending your knees and lifting your legs, which focuses more on your hamstrings. The key is to keep your pelvis as straight as possible without twisting. You will find your glutes and hamstrings working. Exercises like this can help prevent knee injuries, especially to the ACL.
4. Cover up
There are two versions to help with power. The first is the bench squat. Sit on your backpack and on the chair. Lift your head first before bending your legs. Make sure you look forward with your chest up and don’t let your knees drop past your toes. The key to this is that you want to strengthen your core, engage your glutes, and engage your quadriceps muscles.
If you want to do something more advanced, you can try the heavy goblet squat. The key to this is to keep hoping but not high. When you look up, you strain your back muscles, which takes your attention off your legs. Squats are important because that’s what you usually do when you run up the hill.
5. Band side walk
Place an exercise band on the outside of both feet near the soles of the feet. Move side to side in a low squat to work your core, glutes and quads. When you walk side to side, you’re really targeting the gluteus medius, an important muscle around your hips. This hip stability exercise is important for preventing knee injuries because knee stability depends on the strength of your hips.