5 Common Skiing Injuries

 

There's a reason that some of the best Orthopaedic Surgeons in the world live in the Eagle & Summit County area of Colorado. Beautiful mountains, plenty of access to outdoor activities, and a great overall standard of living. It's all here. 

Ok, let's be honest, that's all very (very) nice, but the real reason we Orthopaedic Surgeons are all here is because of the high density of world-class mountains that draw skiers from all over the world and give us a chance to ply our trade daily.

All of these happy skiers love to get out on the hill and do their thing...but doing their thing (skiing) ultimately results in the injuries that we specialize in. Ankles, knees, legs, hands, and even heads. Injuries to these parts of the body are all on the table when people start zipping down mountains at high rates of speed.

So what are the most common skiing injuries that we see on a recurring basis?

1. ACL Injuries

ACL Injuries

Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament are some of the most common injuries in skiers. No doubt you've heard of the ACL, because it's a ligament that receives a lot of attention in every sport. Chances are that you or somebody you know has experienced this injury. Luckily, an ACL tear isn't the problem that it used to be. It's now possible to bounce back from an ACL tear as good as new. 

We get a lot of questions asking whether the ACL will heal on it's own. Unfortunately, it will not, even though you may be able to continue to ski after the swelling from the initial injury wears off.

If you want your ACL tear to be repaired, it's going to take surgery-- it's not an injury that will repair itself.

2. Shoulder Dislocations

2. Shoulder Dislocations

Dislocating your shoulder is another injury you may face if you are a skier.  Shoulder dislocations may occur after an impact (usually with the ground after a nasty unexpected fall), resulting in the shoulder popping out of the joint. 

Shoulder dislocations can become a consistent problem if not treated correctly, so make sure to seek professional help if you experience this injury.

3. Injuries to the Thumb and Wrist

Thumb & Wrist Injuries

A list of skiing and snowboarding injuries wouldn't be complete without mentioning thumb and wrist injuries. Snowboarders, in particular, are vulnerable to these injuries because of the angle and frequency at which they fall.

Falling snowboarders often hit the deck fast, hard, and unexpectedly when they "catch an edge".  Beginning snowboarders are especially prone to wrist and thumb injuries, which is why you might see beginners wearing wrist guards on the bunny hill.

"Skiers thumb" is something we also see our fair share of. This injury to the thumb occurs when the UCL is strained by a pole putting undue force upon the ligament during a fall. If you experience this injury, do your best to take a rest and refrain from applying pressure upon the injured thumb.

4. MCL Injuries

MCL Injuries

Back to the knee. Medial Collateral Ligament injuries are common skiing injuries because of the high rate of speed that skiers often achieve. When force is placed upon a bent knee at speed, we have a recipe for MCL tears and strains.

An MCL injury in the making happens when you see a skier flying down the mountain, losing control of their speed, then falling in an attempt to slow themselves. When their leg bends inward during this process, it puts the MCL at serious risk, resulting in the possibility of a sprain or a tear. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may or may not need surgery.

5. Head injuries and concussions

Head injuries

This clearly isn't my department of expertise, but nevertheless, we never like to hear about concussions in any sport. As evidenced by several high-profile professional athletes who've had to retire early (not to mention the current debate enshrouding pro football) concussions are no joke and should be treated with extreme care. 

Luckily, the increase of helmets as an essential piece of skiing equipment have helped us to combat head injuries.  If you are a skier or snowboarder and you like to push the limits, I highly recommend adding a helmet to your list of standard equipment.