Being outside and active during the winter months can be a great way to enjoy the colder, snowier months of the year. Skiing and snowboarding are popular winter activities that encourage physical activity, but are not without their risk of injury.
When looking to identify risk factors related to skiing, researchers in South Tyrol identified that men were at greater risk of injury severity than females based on visits to their clinic. Additionally, injury severity increased with age and snowboarding. Beginners reported less severe injuries than experts based on the injury severity score and the presence of fresh snowfall also decreased injury severity (Girardi, et al, 2010).
Helmet usage in skiers and snowboarders is not consistent across age, as middle school aged children had higher levels of helmet use than high schoolers. Wearing a helmet has been shown to reduce the occurrence of head injuries. When wearing a helmet, high school aged participants were more likely to report injury resulting from jumps or tricks, as well as solid organ injuries (McLoughlin, et al, 2019).
Based on meta-analysis of ski injury data, the researchers identified that females are at an increased risk of knee injuries in both skiing and snowboarding. Beginners reported injuries at greater rates than advanced or expert skiers, mostly as the result of a fall, while advanced and expert participants reported injuries as resulting from a jump. Wrist braces were found to reduce the rate of wrist fractures in snowboarders, but may predispose these athletes to elbow and shoulder injuries. Additionally, inclement weather, including poor visibility and terrain also increased the risk of injury (Hume, et al, 2015).
Based on qualitative research with 61 stakeholders in World Cup alpine skiers, 32 perceived risk factors were identified across five categories. According to the results of the study, the five most commonly perceived risk factors are the ski/binding/plate/boot interface, changing snow conditions, speed and course settings, physical attributes including skier fitness and strength level and speed in general (Sporri, et al, 2012).
Generally, injuries differ based on experience, ability, skiing and snowboarding participation, weather and whether participants are wearing a helmet. While the weather conditions are outside of personal control, how a participant responds to changing weather and surface conditions is. Increasing signage, attention and caution can help reduce the risk of injury in inclement conditions. Choosing to wear a helmet is important to reducing head injuries, as long as risk taking is not increased for jumps. Having a helmet may create a false sense of security that increases risk taking that can result in injury. Jumping carries an intrinsic risk of injury for skiers and snowboarders, whereas falling is a common cause of injury in beginners. Participating within one’s ability at a speed that can be safely handled is not only responsible, but related to reduction in injuries and collisions. Snowboarders are encouraged to wear wrist braces to protect themselves from a fall on an outstretched hand and everyone is encouraged to adequately prepare for the upcoming snow season.
Increasing fitness, strength and balance are essential components of a snow sport preparation program. Age is related to injury, and while we cannot control the aging process, we can control our fitness. Take the time to prepare, get strong and gradually increase activity to enjoy not just this season, but many more seasons to come!
Wear a helmet
Consider a wrist brace if snowboarding
Pay attention and ski within your ability and avoid excessive risk taking
Prepare for the season with a comprehensive strength and conditioning program
Girardi, P., Braggion, M., Sacco, G., De Giorgi, F., & Corra, S. (2010). Factors affecting injury severity among recreational skiers and snowboarders: An epidemiology study. Knee Surg Sports Trammatol Arthrosc, 18, 1804-1809.
Hume, P. A., Lorimer, A. V., Griffiths, P. C., Carlson, I., & Lamont, M. (2015). Recreational snow-sports injury risk factors and countermeasures: A meta-analytic review and Haddon matrix evaluation. Sports Med, 45, 1175-1190.
McLoughlin, R. J., Green, J., Nazarey, P. P., Hirsch, M. P., Cleary, M., & Aidlen, J. T. (2019). The risk of snow sport injury in pediatric patients. American Journal of Emergency Medicine, 37, 439-443.
Sporri, J., Kroll, J., Amesberger, G., Blake, O. M., & Muller, E. (2012). Perceived key injury risk factors in World Cup alpine ski racing: An exploratory qualitative study with expert stakeholders. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 46, 1059-1064.
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*This site is for educational purposes only, it is not meant to diagnose, treat or replace medical advice. Before starting an exercise program always make sure that you are healthy and able to do so safely.*