When it comes to Reducing injuries and staying safe on the slopes Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Paul Rahill with Pikes Peak Orthopaedics says many of the skiing and snowboarding injuries he sees that often lead to surgery can be avoided with a little preparation, that begins with making sure your skiing muscles are in good shape.
“The first part of that is conditioning the quads, strengthening the ACL, all those things before you get on the slopes. Try to be in some sort of physical shape so that you can make athletic moves and not injure yourself.”
Ski equipment has come along way in the safety department. In this day and age the easiest thing you can protect is your head by simply wearing a helmet according to Dr. Rahill.
“There are a multitude of things you can do to prevent injury during skiing or boarding. Primarily what we want to talk about is wearing helmets, and while they haven't been shown in any large level 1 studies as preventative, using common sense we know helmets prevent injuries in other sports skateboarding, biking, so wearing helmets is key to preventing head injury.”
Dr Rahill says before ski binding technology evolved, in the 70's it was more common to break your leg just above the ski boot. With the advent bindings that break away in multiple directions when you crash those devastating leg fractures have decreased nearly 90%, but it's come at the cost of knee injuries going up 200%. The two most common falls that cause knee injuries are either falling forward or backward.
"Falling forward or backward leads to that ski becoming a 4 foot lever that can twist your knee. Basically if you can plan you fall it's much better to fall to the side and drop your poles and that can decrease injury rate to the knee and hands. If you have a pole in your hand and you fall it acts as a fulcrum or lever to pop that ligament in your hand. What we recommend is that you don't put wrist straps on so that if you fall you can drop the poles."
When it comes to snowboarding, especially if you’re over the age of 40 Dr. Rahill says a helmet and wrist guards are a must.
The most common injury in snowboarding is wrist fracture. One study showed if your are over the age of 40 if you pick up the sport of snowboarding, your risk of breaking the wrist is 100%. Snowboarding is a different mechanism of falling from skiing, you can get whipped down so fast you don't even know your falling before you hit. Wearing a helmet in snowboarding is particularly important because when you go down on a back edge, the head hits the ground and can cause a concussion. When you go down on a front edge those wrists come out every time to catch your fall, and if you are not wearing wrist guards you can sustain a wrist fracture."
Finally, Dr. Rahill says know the rule of 3's when it comes to avoiding injuries. This applies especially for your out of town friends in for a ski vacation, or if you're not a regular skier or boarder.
“Don't ski above 3,000 meters, that’s about 10,000 feet and that is to prevent you from getting fatigued cardiovascularly to the point where you can't make an athletic move to prevent injury to the knee. Another thing is don't ski after 3 o'clock, you're tired your fatigued, and that can lead to injury at the end of the day. The other thing is not skiing on the 3rd day, so if you come for a week, take a break on the 3rd day."
Besides making sure you're body's in shape and you have all the right safety equipment, make sure every year you have a professional perform regular maintenance and a tune up on your equipment to make sure it’s in top shape as well.