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How to Avoid Winter Sports Injury

By all means get out and enjoy the slopes whilst you’re away on holiday, but it’s also equally important to make sure you’re safe and avoid any injuries as medical expenses build up, especially in countries across Europe where the cost of medical attention is only partially subsidised by your EHIC card. Without decent travel insurance, you can end up paying thousands for something you thought was worth a lot less stress and money.

With over 270million people taking part in winter sports holidays every year, it’s likely that injuries are going to happen. Taking part in a colder climate that we’re not used to and putting our body through extra physical strain can also lead to unexpected twists, sprains and breaks, and often most injuries occur after lunch and towards the end of the day as people try to get in one more run despite their fatigue or discomfort.

Most winter sport injuries can be prevented if participants stay in good physical condition, gradually increase their level of difficulty, stay alert and stop when they are tired or feel in pain.

Below is our guide to avoiding winter sports injuries, from the head injuries which can cause harm to the little things:

  • HEAD – most snow tourism experts recommend skiers and snowboarders to wear the appropriate equipment, including a fitted helmet. At the elite end of the runs, the advanced and expert levels require helmets to be compulsory, and as head injuries make up 5% of all winter sports injuries, it’s well worth the investment.
  • WRISTS – beginners especially should watch out for their wrists and use wrist guards in order to reduce the chances of wrist injury. As beginners tend to fall more, they place more stress and strain on their wrists as they fall onto outstretched hands.
  • THUMB – It might only sound little but Skiers thumb is a serious malady. When someone falls, the wrist and fingers are vulnerable and more likely to break or become sprained. If a fall happens whilst the skier is grabbing a ski pole, Skier’s thumb is more likely to happen. The thumb’s main ligament (the muscle on the curved bit between your thumb and index finger which helps you pinch, grab and grip things) can rip and if not fixed with emergency surgery, can lead to long-term disability. The trick to avoiding this comes with remembering to let go of the ski poles as you’re falling.
  • BACK – Damaging your back can be risky business and it could take months to recover or fully heal. Many people give themselves whiplash when the fall and their head fall forward, then whips back. Compression is another risky injury, where the vertebrae in the back are pushed into each other. Don’t be reckless on the slopes, avoid jumps of over 10ft, and most importantly, if you think someone has injured their back, don’t move them until appropriate medical help has arrived.
  • LEGS – Leg injury rates have improved dramatically due to improves sportswear, bindings and equipment release mechanisms, but to make sure you have little risk of breaking or tearing your leg ligament, try not to make jumps from huge heights and land awkwardly.
  • WARM UP – As with any sport, you reduce the chances of you breaking, spraining or twisting something if you warm up correctly. Muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments which are cold are more susceptible to injury.
  • DON’T DRINK TOO MUCH – Drinking at lunch time is a popular part of the winter sport holiday culture, and a few too many could lead to a collision on the slopes. Make sure you can still stay in control and aware of things happening around you as you enjoy a glass with lunch.
  • WEAR THE RIGHT KIT – By dressing appropriately and wearing the right gear, you’re preparing your body for the sport as much as you can. Protective gear like helmet, goggles, padding and gloves are essential in keeping you safe and unhurt. Make sure that before you hit the slopes, all equipment such as ski or snowboard bindings are in good working condition.
  • DON’T GO IT ALONE – Stay with someone, a partner or friend or even as part of a group as much as possible. Make sure someone knows where you are or where you will be if they are not participating in the same activity.
  • BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS – Collisions with other skiers or snowboarders is a common incident for those enjoying the piste to get injured. Make sure you keep an eye on what everyone else is doing whilst you enjoy yourself.

Mike Langran, a Scottish doctor who specialises in piste safety and related issues gives this advice:

“Take your time to gain experience on the slopes. Get professional instruction but don’t be tempted to try too much too soon, especially if encouraged by more experienced friends.

“Read and follow the FIS rules. Use the best equipment you can, wear a helmet whenever possible and, if you’re a snowboarder, get yourself a pair of good quality wrist guards.”

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