By Evan Midford, Website & Social Media Coordinator
As the snow gets deeper and athletes are looking to get back on the slopes, it’s important to keep in mind common injuries that can occur and how to prevent them. When skiing and snowboarding, common injuries include: concussions, wrist sprains and fractures, and ligament injuries in the knee.
Dr. Gail Sawa, a physician at the Sport Manitoba Clinic, stresses that practicing key stretching and strengthening techniques, knowing how to brace yourself for a fall, and wearing proper protective equipment will help prevent concussions, sprains, fractures, and further injuries.
A proper warm-up is essential in all types of exercise. By raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow to muscles and joints, your body will be at a greatly decreased risk for injury. Warmed-up, flexible ligaments are less likely to tear in the event of a fall or awkward landing. Sport Manitoba Performance has resources on effective warm-up routines for you and more information on why it’s important to warm up.
Warming up will help but it isn’t the end all be all to avoiding injury. There are certain techniques that will help you stay safe on the slopes.
Knowing how to fall is crucial to avoiding wrist injuries especially for snowboarders. Avoid landing on small hard joints in your body, like your wrists, elbows, shoulders, or knees. Instead, try to land on softer areas with a large surface area, like your bum, lower back, or the back of your shoulders. These areas of the body will spread the force out over a larger area and reduce the chance of injury.
Skiers are at a higher risk for knee injury because their lower body isn’t fixed together. When landing jumps, turning, or stopping, there is more pressure on your knees. A great way to prevent injury here is to strengthen your legs and knees to be able to hold up against these factors. Knees, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core are all important areas to strengthen to improve balance and avoid falling. Plyometrics are exercises that can help develop power and build resilience in the muscles and connective tissues. Adding this type of exercise to your training can increase your speed, endurance, and strength. Start with the basic movements then work through progressions, sets, and reps to build your workout. To build strength and power, consider challenging both your vertical and lateral baseline movements. Mobility exercises will increase your range of motion and help you move more actively. These exercises can be done every day. The concept of controlled articular rotations (CARs) is to take the joint (or joints) through a full rotational range of movement (pain free) in a slow and controlled manner. This often takes 5-10 seconds per direction per repetition. The other goal is to build tension throughout your body (irradiation) to prevent movement at any other joints while performing the controlled articular rotation.
Concussions are not uncommon for skiers and snowboarders. The most important step to avoiding concussions is to wear the proper gear, namely, a helmet. Make sure you are wearing a helmet that fits you properly. A helmet for skiing and snowboarding should fit very snugly with no space in between the foam and your head. If you experience and fall with a high impact blow to the head you should stop activity immediately and seek medical attention. Here’s more on helmet safety from the Canadian Ski Council. Concussion symptoms will not necessarily be apparent directly following the incident. Our website has more information on concussions and when to return to play.
Know Your Limits
The easiest way to get injured skiing or snowboarding is to try a route that is beyond your experience. If you’re new to the sport, take some lessons before heading to the big runs. There’s nothing wrong with a few trips down the bunny hill to get a feel for your skis or snowboard. This goes for experienced people too. Don’t start your first run of the season on hard, unfamiliar terrain. Work your way up to the tough routes and your body will thank you for it.
For more information regarding injury prevention, contact Sport Manitoba Clinic or Sport Manitoba Performance: