Although skiing and snowboarding may be considered sports for the adrenaline junkie, injuries only occur two to three per 1000 skier days. While injury cannot be altogether prevented, we can certainly do quite a lot to reduce our risks. Mr Jonathan Bell, injuries and surgery expert for the Ski Club of Great Britain takes us through his steps for an injury-free season.
The annual ski trip may be considered a family holiday but it requires a high level of fitness and strength to participate safely. Your body will respond to the challenges of skiing and snowboarding far better if you are in good shape. If you have a good baseline fitness, you are much less likely to fatigue. I think that fatigue is a common cause of injury in the once-a-year skier, as evidenced by the fact that the majority of ski injuries occur after 3 pm.
If you have a niggling injury, now is the time to get it dealt with, rather than two weeks before you are about to travel. If you have received treatment for an injury or even had surgery, you need to be realistic about how well recovered you are. Although you may be able to potter down a blue run three months after a knee replacement, you certainly are not fully recovered. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction will take approximately nine months to recover and many do not feel completely recovered until after a year.
It has been noted that injury risk increases 800% if equipment is borrowed. It’s vital that you hire your equipment, or purchase your own. Have it set up correctly and it should be in a well-serviced condition. Equally make sure that your equipment matches your level of ability; have a good hard look at those 15-year-old ski boots and consider whether it is time for renewal.
Skiing and snowboarding are fun sports, but if you are fearful or scared, your risk of injury will significantly increase. Be aware that alcohol decreases your performance considerably and even a small amount may put you at risk of injury after the lunchtime glass or few. You will be at your most fatigued on day three of the ski trip. So pace yourself, do not overdo it. When you get on a ski lift, be very aware who you are on a ski lift with. It is easy to be knocked over by the person sitting next to you and every year I see significant knee injuries from people being injured in the first five yards after they get off the lift and, in fact, I would consider it to be most dangerous place on the mountain. Finally, don’t forget that in the mountains it is easy to dehydrate.
Jonathan Bell is a knee specialist at Wimbledon clinics and advisor to the Ski Club of Great Britain on ski injuries and resident surgery expert.
The Ski Club of Great Britain offers information and advice on all things wintersports. For more advice, please visit skiclub.co.uk/infoandadvice or call 020 8410 2009.