EMTs from Utah to Switzerland know winter as the time of the year where they get really busy. Here is how you can stay off their stretchers and enjoy your winter sports injury-free.
The Right Gear
It’s amazing what equipment people think is enough to hurl themselves down a steep slope with up to 60 mph: no goggles, no gloves, old skis with worn out bindings, boots that don’t fit right etc.
But goggles protect your eyes from ice crystals and snow blindness. Properly waxed skis don’t get into arguments with themselves about going left or right. Comfortable boots won’t have your toe nails fall out two weeks after the vacation. And if you are a snowboarder going for speed and jumps, not wearing a helmet is foolishness itself.
Save on the plane ticket by riding in the cargo hold, save on the lodge by taking your sleeping bag and putting up a tent, I don’t care. But when you put yourself on that slope, your stuff better be working 100% and perfect for you!
The injury prevention method most often neglected is warming up. People jump onto their skiers and ask cold muscles for maximum flexibility. How many end up with sprains, strains and the rest?
Five minutes of swift walking in place or jumping jacks get more blood flow going to the muscles. Follow it by another five minutes of dynamic stretching, mimicking the typical positions you go into when you do your activity. For skiing, for example, that’s a couple of squats, and gently swinging the legs and arms.
What you shouldn’t do is static stretching of cold muscles.
Avoiding The 4 Most Typical Injuries
All that already takes care of many too close encounters with the fluffy whiteness. However, the four most common winter sports injuries are due to inexperience and improper equipment usage:
- The #1 skiing injury involves the knee’s ACL. People squat, think they lose balance and then put their weight on the inside edge of the ski. At that point something’s got to give and that’s the ACL. When you are about to lose balance and want to avoid this, pull the skis together, flex the knees and hold your arms in front of you.
- The knee’s MCL is number two on the list and gets hurt when people fall forward, catch the inside of their ski’s tip and its release mechanism fails. Just have a pro do a release check before you start and your MCL will thank you.
- The skier’s thumb is a case of misunderstanding proper equipment usage. People slip their wrists through the pole’s strap, fall down and can’t let go of the pole. The thumb gets wedged between it and the ground and the result is a big ouch! So don’t use the straps! Nobody will steal your poles when you let go, honestly!
- The snowboard wrist fracture is the most typical injury of that sport, because people usually fall backwards and instinctively reach behind them with their hands. Snowboarding with closed fists and learning to roll into a fall avoids it in very many cases.
I know it sucks to finally have your winter vacation come up and right before get an injury. But don’t fall into the same trap as many runners, who pop a pain reliever and ignore it.
A pain reliever lets you enjoy your winter sports relatively pain-free, but the payback will come. Because they don’t repair damage, they just turn off the “caution” signals your body gives you. It will all be back with a vengeance and can become permanent. The knee is rather unforgiving in this regard.
Have Fun, Stay Safe!
Have loads of fun swooshing down the slopes this winter! But remember, I want to see you all in good order once spring is in the air, without any exciting adventures in rescue helicopters!
Picture courtesy of “Skistar Trysil“.