Surprising Health Tips for Those Hitting the Slopes

Surprising Health Tips for Those Hitting the Slopes

Headed to Tahoe or Aspen this winter? Read this first to stay safe and healthy on the slopes.

Whether your preferred method down a mountain is on skis or a snowboard, there are certain precautions you should take to stay safe.

1. Wear sunscreen.

Even on the coldest, cloudiest day, sunscreen is essential. The risk of sunburn is twofold on the slopes, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. For every 1,000 feet you rise above sea level, your exposure to UV radiation increases by 4 to 5 percent. Plus, all that white powder reflects and intensifies sunlight making you even more likely to get a sunburn. Apply a sweat and water proof sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to all exposed areas, and reapply every two hours. Snow and wind can make your sunscreen pull a disappearing act.

2. Wear sunglasses.

That reflecting snow? Not only does it up your likelihood of sunburn and premature aging, but it also increases your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. The bright light can also lead to eye fatigue. Look for wraparound-style sunglasses or goggles that offer 99 percent or greater UV protection.

This open enrollment, make sure your plan includes Keck Medicine of USC.

3. Consider a helmet.

Helmets are almost customary on the slopes now. While they do protect against head lacerations and fractures and keep you warmer than a hat would, they are not a license to ski or snowboard recklessly. Studies have shown that they don’t protect against concussions or traumatic brain injuries.

“Basically, it’s hard to prevent concussions,” said Seth C. Gamradt, MD, associate professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, director of orthopaedic athletic medicine at USC Athletics and an orthopaedic surgeon at Keck Medicine of USC. “USC is on the forefront of imaging for concussions and research using EEG, meaning electroencephalography, to actually measure the patient’s brain waves and try to return those back to normal as well. A concussion is one of the big things that we see at USC, and we’re really trying to fight that with a multifaceted approach.”

Helmet or not, it’s always vital to be focused, pay attention to signs and be courteous of others on the mountain.

4. Stay in shape.

What’s worse than a weekend warrior? A winter warrior: a skier or boarder who doesn’t exercise in other seasons. If you hit the slopes when you’re out of shape, you’re more likely to get an injury. Squats and lunges will help prepare you for the rigors of the mountain.

5. Know the signs of frostbite.

The classic sign of frostbite is a white or grayish cast to your skin. You may also feel a prickling feeling or numbness or experience general clumsiness. You’re most likely to get frostbite on exposed areas – on the slopes, that means your nose. If you start to feel any of these symptoms, it’s time to head to the lodge.

By Anne Fritz

If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top physicians in the world, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting