3 Common Ski and Snowboarding Injuries and How to Avoid them
Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding are enjoyed by many people worldwide, with many Singaporeans travelling overseas to enjoy winter sports. However, each year many people get injured while skiing and snowboarding. Both sports can cause injuries, but the types of damage are typically different. Skiing often leads to knee injuries caused by twisting motions during falls, while snowboarding often results in upper body injuries like shoulder pain from falling on the shoulder or wrist pain from falling on an outstretched hand. This article shares 3 common ski and snowboarding injuries and how you can avoid getting injured.
Skiing vs Snowboarding Injuries – Who gets injured more?
Skiing is more likely to cause lower-extremity injuries like knee pain than snowboarding due to differences in equipment, stance, and the way falls happen. Skiers have a higher risk of knee injuries because of the torsional forces they experience, while snowboarders do not experience as much lower-extremity torque due to the difference in equipment used.
Compared to skiers, snowboarders are more likely to experience injuries in the upper body, specifically in the shoulders, elbows, forearms and wrists. Snowboarders are more likely to experience upper body injuries because of the way they fall. When a snowboarder falls, they may try to catch themselves with their hands, which can cause injuries to the shoulder, elbow, forearm, and wrist. Additionally, the nature of snowboarding, which involves a lot of tricks and manoeuvres, increases the chances of falling and thus the likelihood of upper body injuries. Here are the 3 most common injuries experienced by skiers and snowboarders.
1) Torn Ligaments in the Knee (ACL & MCL)
Skiers are more likely to experience knee injuries as the sport places more stress on the knee, particularly on the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). The ACL is a ligament in the knee that connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). It helps to stabilize the knee joint and prevent excessive forward movement of the tibia. ACL injuries are common in sports that involve sudden changes in direction, such as twisting motions during falls while skiing. Experienced snowboarders attempting tricks and jumps can also risk tearing their ACL.
What happens if I injure my ACL?
Injuries to the ACL can range from a mild sprain to a complete tear and may require surgery to repair. Symptoms of an ACL injury include pain and swelling in the knee, difficulty bearing weight on the affected leg, and a popping or snapping sensation at the time of the injury. If you injure your ACL, the severity of the injury will determine the course of treatment. A mild sprain may only require rest, ice, and physical therapy to heal. However, a complete tear of the ACL will typically require surgery to repair the ligament. The surgery to repair an ACL tear is called ACL reconstruction and it usually involves replacing the damaged ligament with a tissue graft.
If you feel that you may have injured your knee, do take a break and seek medical help at the soonest to avoid the injury from getting worse.
2) Wrist Fractures
Snowboarders are at higher risk of wrist injuries because when they fall, they often instinctively put their hands out to break the fall. This can cause injuries such as wrist sprains, wrist fractures, and dislocations. Additionally, the wrist is a common site of injury because it is a vulnerable joint that bears a lot of weight and stress during snowboarding, especially during tricks and maneuvers that involve twisting and turning motions.
Skiers are prone to wrist injuries due to the way they fall, when they fall, skiers often use their poles to brace themselves for the fall which can put a lot of stress on the wrists leading to sprains, fractures, and dislocations. Additionally, when skiers fall, their poles can be thrust forward, impacting the skier’s hand, and causing injuries such as wrist fractures or sprains.
What happens if I injure my wrist?
If you injure your wrist while snowboarding or skiing, the severity of the injury will determine the course of treatment. A mild wrist sprain or strain may only require rest, ice, and physical therapy to heal. However, more severe injuries such as a wrist fracture or ligament tear may require more invasive treatments such as surgery and casting.
Symptoms of a wrist injury include pain, swelling, and bruising in the affected area. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may also experience difficulty in moving or gripping objects. If you suspect that you have a wrist injury, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. A doctor may order x-rays or an MRI to diagnose the injury and determine the appropriate course of treatment.
3) Shoulder Injuries
Shoulder injuries can occur while snowboarding for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is the use of the arm to break a fall. When a snowboarder falls, they often use their arm to try to cushion the impact and protect their head and chest. This can result in a fall onto the shoulder with the arm in an adducted position, which can lead to injuries such as AC joint injuries. Another reason for shoulder injuries in snowboarding is the high-energy nature of the sport. Snowboarding can involve fast speeds, sharp turns, and aerial maneuvers, which can put a lot of stress on the shoulder joint. This can lead to dislocations or fractures of the proximal humerus.
Additionally, improper technique or equipment can also contribute to shoulder injuries. Snowboarders who don’t use proper form or technique when falling, or who don’t have properly fitting boots and bindings, may be more prone to shoulder injuries.
AC joint injuries usually present with pain and tenderness in the shoulder, and can usually be treated without surgery. Dislocations of the glenohumeral joint typically occur when the shoulder pops out of place and can be treated by reducing the dislocation as soon as possible. Proximal humerus fractures are more common among novice snowboarders and older female skiers with low bone density, and can result in pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the shoulder. These injuries can be treated nonoperatively if there is minimal displacement without any associated dislocation.
7 Tips to prevent skiing and snowboarding injuries
Even though skiing and snowboarding can seem daunting especially due to the high risk of injury – there are several precautions that you can take to reduce your risk of skiing and snowboarding injuries. Here are 7 tips to reduce your risk of snowboarding injuries:
- Strengthen your legs: Building strength in your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves can help to stabilize your knee and reduce the risk of injury.
- Warm up before skiing or snowboarding: A proper warm-up before hitting the slopes will help to prepare your muscles for the physical demands of winter sports.
- Take breaks: Regular breaks will help you to rest and stretch your legs.
- Wear protective gear: Wearing knee pads or other protective gear can help reduce the risk of injury in case of a fall.
- Know your limits: Skiing within your abilities and avoiding attempting tricks or skiing on terrain that is beyond your skill level can help prevent injury.
- Cross-training: Engage in other physical activities such as cycling, swimming, or weightlifting to increase your overall fitness and reduce the stress on your knees.
- Get a knee brace: If you have a previous knee injury or condition, a knee brace can provide additional support and help to reduce the risk of re-injury.
Seek Physiotherapy Help for Injuries
Seeking sports physiotherapy for injuries is an effective way to manage pain, improve function and prevent further injury. Physiotherapy is a form of rehabilitation that uses exercises, manual therapy, and education to help you recover from an injury and return to your normal activities. Our team of physiotherapists are trained to assess, diagnose and treat a wide range of musculoskeletal injuries. They will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan to help you achieve your goals and manage your symptoms. Our multidisciplinary team can also provide you with education and advice on injury prevention. Overall, physiotherapy is an important aspect of injury management and can help you return to your normal activities as soon as possible. Do contact us to book an appointment with our team if you are in need of physiotherapy treatment.