It’s November and the cold temperatures are setting in; the snow is finally falling on the local mountains! So, are you ready? I’m not talking about a new Burton jacket, I am referring to you – your body, is it prepared and ready to take on the physical demands of skiing or snowboarding to return home without a cast or crutches? Alpine skiing and snowboarding are challenging sports with real risks due to the involvement of high speeds and an increased propensity for participants to jump and perform acrobatic maneuvers.

Alpine skiing and snowboarding take place in environments where medical care may not be readily available on site. Because of these challenges, greater emphasis needs to be placed on skill, preparation, and safety strategies/equipment to prevent injury

In both skiing and snowboarding, the leading cause of death and catastrophic injury is traumatic brain injury (TBI). Head injuries and concussions account for 25 to 30% of injuries.  Sprains and strains are far more common, albeit less serious. When skiing you are at greater risk of sustaining an injury to your lower limb; most commonly knee injuries like tearing the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or sprains and tears to the collateral ligaments of the knee. Snowboarders on the other hand sustain most injuries to their upper limb; frequently sprains or fractures to the hand and wrist or shoulder dislocations.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Wearing a helmet and being physically prepared for your trip can significantly reduce your risk of injury. There are also many benefits to adventuring on the mountain, not only is it fun, being outdoors enjoying the beauty of your natural surroundings is good for your soul and mental outlook. But undoubtedly the physical exertion is great exercise for your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems. These tips can help make your winter wonderland wicked rather than weary and wounded!

Why not start your holiday in pristine condition? If you know you have a knee or back niggle visit your physical or massage therapist for some hands-on treatments to relieve pain and stretch out tight structures, so you can enjoy your trip without any flare-ups. Strengthening exercises for your knees and quadriceps muscles (thigh muscles) is very important; the stronger they are the better they can absorb the impacts of skiing and snowboarding without injury. Pilates and core strengthening will also protect your back and improve your balance which may save you from a fall and subsequent injury. In addition to this being physically fit will make your skiing better and more enjoyable. Injuries often occur later in the day when fatigue sets in and concentration levels lag. The fitter you are the longer you will be able to stay out on the slopes without increasing your injury risk.

Fortunately, most snow sport injuries can be treated with rest, ice and physical therapy. However some more severe fractures and ligament tears may require surgical intervention where recovery periods can vary from 3 to 6 months and necessitate intensive rehabilitation.

We’ve put together a guide called “6 Strategies for Avoiding Injury on the Slopes” and it’s accompanied by two leaflets with videos, containing six power exercises for either snowboarding or skiing. To download the guides, just click on the highlighted text.

Snow sports are fun, and these risks shouldn’t deter you from going and enjoying your time. Use these tips to get better prepared and stay injury free.


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