Here are some recommendations on how to stay safe and make it home in one happy, healthy piece, after hitting the slopes this winter.
First the good news: Serious skiing and snowboarding accidents have been on the decline for the past decade. That’s thanks to changes in equipment, an uptick in the use of helmets and an increase in awareness about the importance of skiing and snowboarding safely, reports the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA).
Deaths on the slopes are rare, especially compared with other sports. According to the NSAA, there were 37 reported fatalities in the 2017/2018 season, a decrease of 19% from the previous year. But, that doesn’t give you the green light to throw caution to the wind and take the next gondola up to that triple black diamond trail.
The most common snowboarding and skiing injuries
According to the Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention (STOP) Sports Injuries Campaign, an advocacy group founded by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and others, the most common injuries seen on the slopes are:
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- Anterior cruciate or collateral ligament injuries
- Shoulder dislocations or fractures
- Shoulder separations
- Lower-extremity fractures
- Spinal injuries
- Closed head injuries
- Wrist, hand or thumb injuries
Most injuries are caused by falls, collisions, lift accidents, and skiing or snowboarding on dangerous terrain.
How to avoid snowboarding and skiing injuries
- Wear a helmet and other protective gear, including wrist guards, elbow pads and kneepads. The use of protective equipment has been associated with a 43% decrease in the rate of head, neck and face injuries, according to STOP Sports Injuries.
Helmet use alone is responsible for a reduction of potentially serious head injuries, including paralysis; significant cervical, thoracic or lumbar fractures; and concussions. Together, these injuries dropped to 3% of all ski injuries, over the course of a 17-year study (1995-2012), down from 4.2%, initially, during the study period.
“If the thought of wearing a helmet even crosses your mind, chances are you should put one on,” says Alexander E. Weber, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery of Keck Medicine of USC and assistant professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “It is always better to be safe and protect yourself against head injuries and concussions.”
- Use the proper equipment. Always check that your bindings aren’t too tight or too loose, and make sure it all fits properly, including your boots.
- Don’t attempt trails above your ability level, and pay attention to the weather. A trail that was easy for you one day may be significantly harder the next, if snow and ice conditions change.
- Don’t ski or snowboard off-trail. Those caution and warning signs are there for a reason.
- Take plenty of breaks for water, so you stay well-hydrated. Drinking ample water is particularly important, when you’re at high altitude, which can be dehydrating.
- Stop, when you’re tired. The majority of accidents happen after lunch, reports STOP Sports Injuries.
by Anne Fritz
If you’re in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from renowned orthopaedic surgeons, be sure to schedule an appointment, by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting https://www.ortho.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.