SNOW SPORTS INJURIES
ADVICE FOR SAFE SKIING, SNOWBOARDING AND SKIBOARDING
Provided by the International Skiing Federation (F.I.S.)
GENERAL ADVICE FOR EVERYONE
- Follow the F.I.S. code on piste safety (see below) – the vast majority of injuries occur when someone loses control. Act according to your level of skill. If you injure someone else, chances are you’ll be sued for damages.
- Don’t be tempted to skip professional instruction: injuries are commoner in beginners, and bad habits are difficult to shake off. Take time to learn the sport – don’t try to do too much too soon! Evidence suggests you should combine lessons with experience.
- Have your own equipment checked regularly, or use a reputable hire company. Don’t be tempted to overstate your skill. Boots should fit snugly without your ankle moving around inside. If your skis, board, boots or bindings don’t feel right, go back to the hire shop.
- Warm up and down properly – spend a few minutes gently stretching your hamstrings, thigh muscles, hips and calves, both before and after going on the slopes.
- Recognize when you need a rest – many injuries occur when tiredness sets in.
- Wear adequate clothing, preferably in layers, and use good quality sunglasses, goggles ans sunscreen.
- Helmets make sense – how valuable is your brain?
- Avoid excess alcohol, it affects your reaction time and has greater effect at altitude.
- Never ski or board off-piste alone. Be aware of the prevailing avalanche risk. Carry an avalanche transceiver and learn how to use it.
- Never attempt to ski or board down a closed piste. Be aware of the risk posed by treewells. You may check this st www.treewelldeepsnowsafety.com.
THE F.I.S. CODE OF CONDUCT
- Respect others: behave in such a way that you do not endanger or prejudice others.
- Ski/snowboard in control: taking account of conditions, ability and terrain.
- Choose a safe route: take account of all mountain users around you.
- Overtaking: leave enough room for the person you are overtaking to make an unexpected manoeuvre.
- Looking both ways: when starting or entering a run, or when starting off again.
- Stopping on the piste: avoid stopping in narrow places or where visibility is restricted. Always move to the side of the piste if you have to stop.
- Climbing and descending on foot: keep to the side of the piste at all times.
- Obey all signals and markers: they are for your safety. NEVER ski down a closed run.
- At the scene of an accident: you are duty bound to assist.
- Witness: should you witness an accident it is your duty to assist the ski patrol with any relevant information
If you are an alpine or a telemark skier, remember that the three main injury areas are knee sprains, minor head injuries and damage to the shoulder joint. To help avoid the knee injuries, check your binding settings every day by the ‘self test’ of releasing each boot from its binding at both the heel and the toe. Also, there are four golden rules:
- When you are down, stay down: Don’t try to get up until you stop sliding.
- Keep your knees flexed: Don’t fully straighten tour legs when you fall, try and keep them bent.
- Don’t land on your hands: Keep your arms facing upwards and forwards.
- Land with your knees bent: Don’t jump until you know where and how to land. Always land on your skis with your knees bent.
If you are a snowboarder, the commonest injuries are to the wrist, to the head and to the shoulder, and fractures are twice as likely than amongst skiers. Wrist guards have been demonstrated to reduce the risk of serious wrist injury, and all snowboarders are encouraged to use them. Other points are:
- Soft reinforced boots are recommended for beginners.
- Always attach the board to your lead foot with a security leash.
- If necessary, stop on the side of the piste, and kneel or stand facing uphill to see the oncoming traffic.
- If jumping, make sure before that the landing zone is clear. Don’t try big jumps until you are ready. Jumps gone wrong are the major cause for spinal injuries among snowboarders.
- Be aware of persistent ankle or foot pain when you are back at home, and consult your specialist. It even might require a CT scan to make a correct diagnosis of uncommon lesions, thus avoiding later onset of arthritis.
If you are a skiboarder, the commonest injuries are to the knee, to the lower leg and to the ankles. They are associated with a failure of the release system on skiboards, so be careful going at high speed, and make sure that you have a release plated added.
As to helmets, they help reduce the incidence of many head injuries such as those from glancing blows, impacts with hard snow or ice, and swinging T-bars. However, there is no evidence that any helmet can prevent death when the wearer hits an object at 25 mph or more (the average speed of most intermediate skiers). Though they are strongly recommended, it does not make you invincible.
Material compiled and arranged by: Dr. John Emery
For the interested fans:
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- Meyers MC, Laurent CM Jr, Higgins RW, Skelly WA. Downhill ski injuries and children and adolescents. Sports Med. 2007; 37(&):485-99.
- Renstrom P, Johnson RJ. Cross-country skiing injuries and biomechanics. Sports Med. 1989 Dec; 8(6):346-70.
- Xinag H, Stallone L. Deaths associated with snow skiing in Colorado 1980-1981 to 2000-2001 ski seasons. Injury. 2003 Dec; 34(12): 892-6.
- Langran M, Salvaraj S. Snow sports injuries in Scotland: a case control study. Br J Sports Med. 2002 Apr; 36(2): 135-40.