Winter sports – the thrills, and unfortunately the spills…
For those of us who love to ski or snowboard, there’s little to match the thrill of flying down a shimmering white piste, with clear blue skies above, pine trees and mountain peaks offering up a feast for the eyes, and barely a sound bar the swish of skis slicing through powder.
However, for those of us who love our winter sports but only get to do them once a year at most, it’s also a time when we suddenly make extreme physical demands on a body unused to this type of exercise, and rusty skills can make us more likely to come a cropper. So here are a few tips on how to avoid injury, and if you are injured, how to minimise the damage and heal soonest.
Taking care of your body – before, during and after
- Preparation is key
Spend some time at the gym. Most gyms run ski-fit courses, and these will get the quads and other key muscle groups primed for action. Attaining a higher level of general fitness will put you in a far better position to enjoy an injury-free holiday, while it’s also important to take into account any existing injuries, and their healing time, before heading off.
A good pre-ski programme at the gym will prepare you over 6-8 weeks, while if, for example, you have had knee surgery, you should take your doctor’s advice on when it will be ready for the challenge of winter sports.
- Heading for the slopes
Warming up each day before setting out for the cable car or ski lift will minimise the risk of injury and muscle strain – simple bending, stretching, loosening the shoulders and priming the thigh muscles will all help. Wear plenty of warm, breathable layers for insulation and remember to take plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Don’t push yourself to do “one last run” when you’re already tired. This is when accidents often happen.
- On kit, nerves, alcohol and lifts
Firstly,check your equipment – if it’s hired, make sure it’s right for you, as injuries are staggeringly, 800% more likely to occur with hired equipment. If your own boots are 15 years old, it will almost certainly be worth replacing them or at least changing the foot beds.
If you are a nervous skier, invest in a one-to-one lesson and learn some relaxation techniques – falling on a tense body is likely to cause more injury than a more relaxed one.
Alcohol will also seriously undermine your capacities, so as enticing as it may seem, you’ll do better to leave the glühwein until you’ve safely reached base at the end of the day.
Be careful getting off chair and drag lifts, especially if travelling with someone of an incompatible weight or skill level – the vast majority of knee injuries happen here, as one skier or boarder accidentally bumps another out of the way, leading to a twist or fall on dismounting.
Finally, make sure you wear a helmet and goggles, test your bindings and know your limits.
- If you are injured…
Some of the most common skiing and snow-boarding injuries are as follows:
- Errant skis and bad falls can cause knee injuries, particularly to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
- Using your arms to break a fall can cause injuries to the rotator cuff or shoulder dislocations, while skiers often injure thumbs due to holding ski-poles during an accident.
- Collisions can result in head injuries like concussions as well as bruising, pulled muscles and ligament tears.
Sledging is especially dangerous lying on your stomach heading face first, as collisions are the most common type of injury, whether with a rock, tree or another sledger, so it’s advisable to sit upright facing forward and use a sledge with steering controls – and to sledge on a clear, obstacle-free hill.
In all cases, it is vital to seek immediate help and follow the P.R.I.C.E. recovery protocol if injured: Protection (such as strapping up the injury immediately to immobilise it).
Rest with the limb elevated and supported comfortably.
Ice – to reduce swelling and bruising.
Do also see a doctor and invest in physio at your resort, and follow their advice in the days and weeks that follow, with a follow-up visit to your own GP and/or physio on your return.