Skiing & Snowboarding Injury Prevention

Skiing & Snowboarding Injury Prevention
Posted on 04/20/2021
Skiing & Snowboarding Injury Prevention

Tom Bradley, MS, LAT, ATC, CES
Physical Education Teacher, Castle View High School

During this time of year, Colorado skiers and snowboarders are focused on taking advantage of as many days on the slopes as possible. As with many sports, all this fun can come with certain risks of injuries. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, skiing and snowboarding were responsible for nearly 130,000 hospital and doctor office visits in 2018. However, there are steps that snow sports enthusiasts can take to reduce the risks of injury.

Most of the common injuries associated with snow sports are due to collisions, falls, or lift mishaps. Due to the nature of the sport, any body part could be injured, but the most common injuries include:
  • Concussions

  • Altitude sickness

  • Fractures

  • Neck and back injuries

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries

  • Shoulder dislocations or separations

  • Wrist, hand, or thumb injuries

  • Muscle strains
There are a variety of factors that could contribute to an injury. Some factors are beyond our control, such as weather, slope conditions, and large crowds. Fatigue is one of the main causes of injuries, especially those that occur toward the end of the day. Additional causes include:
  • Insufficient rest prior to or during the ski day

  • Skiing or snowboarding above ability level

  • Improper or faulty equipment

  • Inadequate preparation for altitude

  • Dehydration or poor nutrition

  • Poor physical fitness

  • Going off-trail or in closed areas

  • Reckless behavior
To safely enjoy a day on the slopes, the National Ski Areas Association recommends that skiers and snowboarders observe these basic guidelines:
  • Always stay in control.

  • People ahead of you have the right-of-way

  • Stop in a safe place for you and others

  • Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield

  • Use devices to help prevent runaway equipment

  • Observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails

  • Know how to use the lifts safely
In addition to safe practices on the slopes, skiers and snowboarders can implement a few exercises to help reduce injuries from happening in the first place.

Dr. Tom Hackett, an orthopedic surgeon at the Steadman Clinic in Vail who has worked with hundreds of U.S. Ski Team athletes, offers his expertise: “We’re finding more and more that we think the strengthening of the hip muscles is as important as anything.” Dr. Hackett adds, “I watch people in the gym getting ready for the ski season — all they’re working on is their quads. That’s obviously important, too, but we really have found that the control over your leg that prevents knee injuries is coming from the hip. So more and more, we’re really trying to encourage our patients to work on strengthening the hips.” The hip muscles that need to be strong are the gluteus maximus (the rear) and gluteus medius (the outside of the hip). Weak hips can allow the knees to collapse inward while skiing, and that can predispose a person to an ACL injury.

Exercises with resistance bands are a great option for at-home strengthening programs. Here a few exercises that strengthen the hips and will help prevent skiing and snowboarding injuries:
  • Bridges – Start by lying on your back with a resistance band around the thighs. Bend knees and move them far enough apart to feel band resistance. Keeping shoulders on the floor, press heels into floor, raising hip to bridge position. Hold at the top for 3-5 seconds, then lower pelvis back to the floor. Keep abdominal muscles tight and flex glute muscles through the entire motion. Repeat three sets of 15 repetitions.

  • Squats with external pulses – Start in a squat position, with feet shoulder-width apart and a band around the thighs above the knees. Tighten the core and pulse the knees out a few inches and return to neutral, making sure the knees don’t pass neutral. Repeat three sets of 15 repetitions.

  • Lateral monster walks – Start in a squat position, with feet shoulder-width apart and a band around the thighs above the knees. With toes pointed forward, begin sidestepping. Continue for about 50 feet. Out and back is a lap. Do three laps.

  • Single-leg deadlift – Start by tightening your core and bending slightly at the knees. Raise one leg backward while tipping forward at the trunk, forming a straight line with your torso and the lifted leg. Keeping the trunk straight, reach the arms forward. Repeat three sets of 12 repetitions.

  • Lateral jumps – Start with feet shoulder-width apart, squat down, then jump to one side, then back. In order to absorb impact, try to land as quietly as possible with ankles, knees, and hips bent. Keep the knees in line with the feet. Repeat three sets of 10 repetitions.

  • Planks – Start lying face down, then contract the core and raise the torso and legs, bracing on the forearms and toes. Keep abdominal and glute muscles tight, supporting the back. Hold for 30 seconds, then lower your body back to the floor, repeat four times.

  • Side planks – Start by lying on your side, then push your legs and torso up, bracing your body weight with your forearm and the side of your foot. Keep the body straight while engaging lower side muscles. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch to the other side. Repeat four times on each side.

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  2. Millett, P., Gaskill, T. 2019

  3. Meyer, J. September 30, 2017.
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