Utah is known around the world for the Greatest Snow on Earth. In fact, more than 4 million people ski Utah every year. With that popularity comes the inevitable risk for injury on the slopes. The most common ski injuries affect the knees, followed closely by the hand, wrist and shoulder. Most skiing-related injuries occur late in the day, often as a result of fatigue.
Typically, injuries to the knee range from bruising and strains to devastating tears to the ACL or MCL. Shoulder injuries frequently occur as the result of bracing for a fall with an outstretched hand. Shoulders may experience fracture, dislocation and sprains of the AC joint. Hand injuries often involve the thumbs, with stretched ligaments and broken bones most common.
Although it’s impossible to avoid some ski injuries, you can take steps to decrease the risks you face on the slopes. Before the season starts, work on your conditioning by cycling, walking, jogging or spending time on the elliptical machine. By spending 30-45 minutes, 3-4 days a week, you can significantly improve your endurance. Strengthen your core as well as hips, calves and knees to further protect against injury.
While on the slopes, pay attention to your level of fatigue because, once you start to tire, it becomes difficult to concentrate and hold your line. Every skier wants to get in that last run of the day, which is inevitably when they get hurt. Try doing half-days at the beginning of the season, then extend your time on the slopes gradually. Once you feel like your conditioning has returned, you’ll be ready for full days in the snow. Finally, remember never to ski when you’re tired or injured.
The right equipment can also keep you safe from harm. Ski pole straps can lead to upper extremity injuries, when you become tangled during a fall. Try using strapless poles, or place your entire hand through the strap. When faced with a fall, try making a fist with your hand, rather than attempting to break the fall with an open, outstretched hand. Practice falling uphill and landing on your backside. This will help you avoid injuries to your arms and hands. Finally, always inspect your equipment before hitting the slopes and ensure that your bindings release effectively.
This year, use common sense and take basic precautions and you’ll enjoy a safe, fun and injury-free season on the Utah slopes.