The most common ski injury is to the knee joint, followed by the shoulder and then the hand/wrist. Most injuries occur later in the day, indicating fatigue plays a role. Knee injuries can run the spectrum from bruises and mild stresses to totally blown out knees including ACL tears.
The most common shoulder injuries come from trying to slow the fall with an outstretched hand, resulting in shoulder dislocation, fractures, and AC joint sprains. The next most common injury is to the thumb, caused by jamming it into the ground and stretching the ligaments around it, or breaking a bone.
A certain number of ski injuries are inevitable, but there are things that can be done to decrease the risk of injury. Once a skier is tired, it’s harder to hold a line and concentration diminishes. Two ways to help this are to start the season with conditioning by doing some general aerobic exercises like biking, walking, elliptical machine or jogging, for 30-45 minutes, 3 times a week. More specific exercises can be done to strengthen the core, hips, calves and knee.
Everyone wants to get that “last run” in and that’s usually when they get hurt. Start with a half-day of skiing the first couple of times out, then, extend to two-thirds of a day, for several ski outings. You can then extend your skiing to three-quarters of a day for several ski sessions. Wait until you feel fully conditioned before attempting to ski all day. Don’t ski tired or hurt!
Upper extremity injuries generally occur from trying to prevent landing hard from a fall and getting the hand caught up in the pole straps. Consider using strapless poles or putting the whole hand through the strap to hold onto the handle. If you are falling, try to hit the snow with your fist instead of an outstretched open hand. If you can learn to fall uphill on your backside, you can significantly decrease arm injuries. And, make sure your equipment is in good shape and that you have bindings that will release.
With preparation and common sense, you should be able to have an injury free ski season.