Winter provides a great opportunity across Canada to enjoy skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hockey, and other winter sports. With all the fun of these activities comes the possibility of becoming injured. Below is a brief overview of injuries that can result from winter sports activities and some brief tips on how to avoid these injuries.
1. Damaged ACL or MCL
The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is the main knee ligament connecting the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone). Leg fractures sustained while skiing are fairly rare, but tears or other damage to the ACL remain fairly common injuries. These injuries commonly occur when a skier falls and twists the knee by reaching uphill or squatting to break the fall. Ensuring that you do not sit down during a fall and that your arms remain forward can help prevent injury during falls
ACL tears also often result from failing to land a jump on both skis, causing the tibia to push up against the femur. Keeping your legs flexed and bent while landing a jump can help avoid injury.
A damaged medial collateral ligament (MCL) is another common injury encountered by skiers. This injury typically occurs when a skier falls while the tips of her skis are angled towards each other in a triangular snow plow position. Keeping one’s skis parallel or balancing one’s weight while in the snow plow position can help prevent MCL injuries.
2. Skier’s Thumb
Skier’s thumb or gatekeeper’s thumb refers to a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament at the base of the thumb. In skiing, this injury typically occurs when a skier falls on an outstretched hand with a ski pole in hand, putting force on the thumb and stretching or tearing the ligament. This type of injury can also occur in other sports, like volleyball, when someone attempts to break a fall by stretching out his or her hand. You can avoid this type of accident while skiing by discarding rather than gripping your ski pole when falling.
3. Wrist Injury
Immediate pressure placed on the wrist during a fall can result in injury such as fractures. Since falls occur in all sorts of winter sports, such as snowboarding, ice skating, and hockey, wrist injuries are especially common in the winter. Fractures that extend into the joint can be particularly severe because they may lead to arthritis.
4. Ankle Injury
Falls on ice can often lead to a sprained or fractured ankle. In some cases, you will need surgery to repair a fractured ankle. These injuries can be particularly serious because, like wrist injuries, if the fracture extends into the joint it can lead to arthritis down the road, which can mean further surgeries, including an ankle fusion surgery or ankle replacement surgery.
With the falling that occurs in snowboarding, skiing, hockey, and ice skating, concussions are also common injuries generally caused when impact to the head causes trauma. Concussions are a leading cause of death and disability among skiers and snowboarders, and the symptoms of these types of injuries can be permanent. Wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding can help prevent concussions from occurring. Even minor concussions can, unfortunately, lead to serious and permanent symptoms. It is important to seek out treatment soon after a concussion and treat this as a serious injury in order to increase your chances of a full recovery.