During the winter months, people from all over the world participate in the popular winter sports of skiing and snowboarding. They are both fun and exciting winter activities, but each can also put you at risk for injury. There are many things that you can do for preventing winter sport injuries this winter season and maximize your time on the slopes.

Common Risk Factors for Winter Sport Injuries

In both sports, there are some common risk factors that can contribute to winter sport injuries:

  • Fatigue due to skiing/snowboarding without rest
  • Skiing/snowboarding above your ability level
  • Improper/faulty equipment
  • Dehydration/fatigue
  • Skiing/snowboarding in out-of-bounds areas
  • Failure to adhere to posted warning signs
  • Not maintaining proper code of conduct/safe practices

In skiers, the most common winter sport injuries include:

  • Knee injuries, including MCL and ACL, strains or tears
  • Knee sprains
  • Shoulder injuries from falls
  • Broken leg
  • Thumb or wrist injuries, also from falls
  • Head or neck injuries (less common)

In snowboarders, the most common winter sport injuries include:

  • Wrist and hand injuries due to the nature of falling while strapped into a snowboard
  • Collarbone and shoulder injuries
  • Head and neck injuries

Preventing Winter Sport Injuries

Here are some safety precautions that can be taken to help prevent winter sport injuries this winter:

  1. Prepare your body by warming up beforehand. For example, do some stretching and take a brisk walk to warm up your muscles, or start out on an easy run.
  2. Ensure you have proper equipment that fits your body and skill. Make sure ski/snowboard boots fit properly, bindings are in good working order, and ski length is appropriate for your height and skill level.
  3. Wear safety gear, such as a helmet, and wrist guards if you’re snowboarding.
  4. Be sure to practice proper skiing and snowboarding techniques. If possible, take lessons to learn these techniques.
  5. Stay on marked trails: Going off trail can take you into unsafe territory with unpredictable obstacles, such as trees, rocks, and debris.
  6. Rest if you’re tired, as many injuries happen when fatigued.
  7. Stay hydrated.
  8. If you’re skiing with others, be sure to stay together.

It’s also important to understand the physiology involved in snowboarding and skiing. They are both sports that require a good deal of leg strength and core strength to be effective. There are some exercises that will help you to prepare for a season of skiing or snowboarding, and strengthen your muscles to help preventing winter sport injuries. For example:

Double Leg Squats: in this exercise, you place your feet a shoulder width apart and squat down, keeping your heels on the floor. Stick your bottom out and focus on using your gluteal muscles to lift and lower your weight. Your shins should be parallel to one another, and you should be replicating the squatting position that you remain in for most of the time you are on skis. Do this for 10-15 repetitions holding midway through the squat. This exercise will help build your gluteal and quadriceps muscles – essential for skiing.

Side-to-Side Skaters: Stand on one leg and take a wide step to the side with your other leg; next, stand on that leg and take another large step back to where you were. Keep your pelvis level and ensure that your knees don’t buckle inward. Continue this exercise for as long as you can, or up to 3 minutes. The more slowly you go, the more difficult it will become.