Skiing is a fun, exciting sport that the entire family can enjoy together. However, like any activity, injures can and do occur. That's why it's important to know what to do when you find yourself knee-deep in snow and tending to an injury (yours or a loved ones).
The most common of all skiing injuries is when the lower leg and foot twists outwards and puts extreme pressure on the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) on the inside of the knee. Luckily, this injury isn't as serious as it sounds. However, seeking medical attention is suggested.
A far worse injury, and one that is quite common, is when the knee experiences a traumatic twisting force and hyperextends to strain or tear the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). This often occurs when a skier lands a jump, hits a mogul the wrong way, or twists when they fall.
In addition to knee injuries, shoulder injuries are prevalent in skiers. Shoulder injuries most often occur when the skier puts their arm(s) out to break their fall – causing the shoulder joint to dislocate, the muscles or ligaments holding the joint together to tear or sprain, or the bones around the joint to break and fracture.
Less common but serious injures include: ankle and lower leg fractures, as well as head and neck injuries.
If you or a loved one does get hurt while skiing, it's important that you respond quickly and appropriately.
Follow these 3 steps if you find yourself hurt on the slopes:
Step #1: Listen to your body and stop skiing.
Pushing through the pain may sound like a good idea, but it's one of the worst mistakes you can make. If you're truly injured and in pain, stop what you're doing and move onto Step #2!
Step #2: Assess the injury and either care for the injury yourself or seek professional help.
If you're in severe pain, your body is disabled in any way, or you experience numbness – contact the ski patrol and seek medical attention immediately.
Or, if you've injured an eye, you experience bleeding, immediate swelling, or immediate bruising, have an extremity that appears to be shorter than usual or in an “unnatural position”, or if you have a bone that is now exposed – immobilize the injured area, contact the ski patrol, and seek professional help immediately.
If you seek medical help, then please follow their advice from here.
If you are not experiencing any of the above and you believe your injury is mild enough not to seek medical attention, then we recommend you:
1. Immediately put an ice pack, snow from around you, or a bag of frozen vegetables on the injured area. Doing so helps reduce pain and decrease blood flow and swelling. Ice should not be left on for extended periods of time. Instead, keep the ice on your injury for 10-20 minutes and then remove it. For better results, ice your injury this way several times a day for two to three days.
Whatever you do, DO NOT APPLY HEAT during the first 72 hours following an injury! This includes hot pads, hot baths and warming liniments. Heat increases pain, blood flow, and swelling, slowing recovery and making things worse.
You'll also want to elevate the injured area above the level of your heart to help reduce blood flow and swelling.
NOTE: Nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory pain medications, such as ibuprofen, can be useful in treating a sports injury. Like icing and elevating the area, these medications decrease inflammation and reduce pain. Please use as directed and seek medical attention if pain persists for more than a few days.
2. Rest and let yourself heal. When you're hurt, resting the injured area is extremely important. Do not continue to ski or exercise the injured area. This will place undue stress and strain on your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Believe it or not, resting your body allows it to heal faster than the “no pain, no gain” mentality.
This rest period could take as little as a couple of days, or it could require weeks or months to recover. If you're injury doesn't heal within 3 weeks, you may consider booking an appointment with your doctor.
Step #3: Start the rehabilitation process and slowly get back into action.
If you follow the above protocol and your pain level and swelling have diminished, then you can slowly return to your previous level of activity.
Do not push too hard as you may reinjure yourself. We encourage you to slowly return with some gentle stretching and careful movements to help you prevent scar tissue from forming.
In addition, since scar tissue can interfere with movement and cause pain down the road, you may consider seeking a physical therapist or massage therapist to assist you in this recovery process.
Last, to maintain your overall fitness level during your rehabilitation period, you may consider choosing a training routine that compliments the “skiing motion” but doesn't use the same muscles in the same way.
For example, instead of jumping back on the slopes after an ankle injury, you can add walking and swimming to your rehab routine to help ease your ankle back into shape and get your cardio-conditioning back on track.
We hope you stay healthy and safe. However, if you do find yourself injured on the slopes, we hope these steps get you back on your feet as soon as possible.
NOTE: If you’ve injured yourself while skiing in the past and cannot seem to “shake” the injury, we encourage you to contact us for a thorough evaluation. Old injuries can cause problems as we get older, so being proactive now is important to helping your body properly heal itself.