Heading out of HK to hit the slopes this winter? We discuss common ski injuries and steps you should take now to prevent them. Read on – your body will thank you!
What are the most common ski injuries?
Skiing isn’t termed an extreme sport for nothing. Injuries are estimated to affect nearly two skiers in every thousand, per day. Happily, the number of catastrophic injuries and fatalities are rare – statistics in the USA show less than one for every million skiers per year.
Here are some of the most common injuries:
1. Knee damage is common, making up around a quarter of all ski injuries.
The supporting structures of the knee, such as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the medial meniscus are vulnerable to injury during common ski motions, such as twisting with a planted foot, landing with a straight knee and rapid direction changes where the knee is twisting.
2. Head trauma, concussion and whiplash result from falls, especially to the back. Head injuries account for 9%–10% of all injuries in skiers and snowboarders.
3. Shoulders take a heavy impact if you fall onto outstretched arms. Common ski injuries of the shoulder include dislocation, rotator cuff tear, and collarbone fracture or dislocation.
4. Wrist and thumbs are also a hotspot for damage from falling. Fractured wrists occur 18 times more often in snowboarders than skiers because they’re more likely to use their arms to break their fall. And landing with an open hand on your pole grip can result in ‘skier’s thumb’. The thumb is forced outward, tearing the ligament at its base:
Although you can’t avoid falling altogether, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of injury. Here are steps you can take to make sure you’re on the slopes and not on the sidelines this winter.
How to prevent common ski injuries
Allow at least 6–8 weeks to get your body in shape for the demands of the slopes. Reduce your falls risk by working on these essential elements:
Strength training for your quads, gluteal (buttock) muscles and hamstrings. These muscles support and control the knee. We advise functional training that mimics a real-world situation (think dynamic squats and lunges), rather than static strength-training such as wall-squats.
Work on your flexibility – a good range of movement in your hips and ankles will promote good technique and ensure an even force distribution across joints. Make sure your calf muscles have enough stretch to enable full movement – this will also help protect your Achilles tendons. Try practicing’s ankle mobility using a slope board, as if ‘edging’ your skis.
Balance training – reinforce your sense of proprioception (body position in space) using single-leg exercises and unstable surfaces. It’s best to train balance in a ski-specific way. Try shifting your weight from foot to foot on a balance board, such as this one.
Endurance training – you want a good level of stamina if you’re going to stay on the slopes all day, so incorporate cardiovascular training, such as running or biking, into your routine.
Avoiding common ski injuries once you’re there
If you’re hiring gear, take time to find the right skis. Have your bindings adjusted for your height, weight and ski ability.
Improperly adjusted ski bindings are a common cause of ski injuries. If they fail to release during a fall, your skis will act as levers, twisting your knees. Go as light as you can on the settings.
Wear a helmet – you have nothing to lose but the risk of a nasty head injury.
Technique is, of course, not just about looking cool as you come down the mountain. It’s also essential in protecting you from falls and reducing the strain on your body. Invest in lessons, and don’t be tempted to try and keep up with the experienced skiers in your group if you’re not ready.
You need to be alert and have good reactions to stay safe on the slopes, so if fatigue sets in, take a break. And maybe save the beers till you’re finished for the day!
How we can help
At OCHK in Central, we take a multifaceted approach to ski preparation. Our team of experts will assess and advise you in how to reach tip-top condition for the ski season.
If you need to address any pain or previous injuries, do so before you head off on your ski adventure, so that your form isn’t affected. Compensating for old pain during such a high-impact, dynamic sport can put you at risk of new injuries.
Our osteopaths can assess your overall body function, ensuring your movement patterns are fully integrated and balanced.
And should the worst happen while you’re away, our osteopaths are experts at sports injury diagnosis and treatment. So, whether it’s a swollen knee or a sore neck, check in with us on your return.
Want to make sure your exercise programme is the right one for you? Our corrective exercise specialist can work with you to produce a tailored plan, designed for your specific needs and sport of choice, whether that’s skiing or snowboarding.
We can make sure you’re training efficiently and maximising your results.
Flexibility and balanced movement rely on good soft-tissue health. Sports massage is a great way to address any areas of tension, adhesion or scar tissue that may have arisen from previous injuries.
And if you spend most of your days at a desk, our therapist will help correct the impact on your posture that can interfere with good ski technique. Want some help preparing for your winter adventure? Book with our friendly team of health professionals today!