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Skis and ski poles, Skiers at the top of the hill

Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries


As the snow continues to fall, skiers and snowboards spend more time out on the slopes.  Like many other sports, skiing and snowboarding can cause accidents. To learn more about skiing and snowboarding injuries, TRIA Maple Grove Primary Care/Acute Injury physician, Nick Esala, DO, CAQ discusses tips to stay safe while out on the slopes.

What are the most common skiing and snowboarding injuries?

Knee injuries are more common in skiers, because of the large amount of force and shock that is applied to one’s knees while skiing.  Some knee injuries can be mild, like a sprain, or more significant, such as ligament tears or fractures.

Shoulder dislocations are more common in snowboarders since these athletes tend to fall with their arms out; placing the force of the fall on their shoulder joint. This type of fall can cause enough force to dislocate a shoulder.

 Wrist injuries and fractures are also extremely common in snowboarders, as falls tend to occur on an outstretched hand.  As a result, the force of the fall is directly on the wrist which could cause a mild injury such as a wrist sprain, or a more severe injury such as a fracture.

How do skiing and snowboarding injuries most likely occur?

Most skiing and snowboarding injuries are traumatic.  These injuries are caused by being on dangerous terrain, falls, collisions or a lift accident.  In many instances, fatigue after a long day on the slopes or poor judgement can play a role with injuries.  Upper extremity (shoulder, elbow or wrist) injuries occur largely from falls on an outstretched arm.  Lower extremity injuries generally occur from falls where the knee or lower leg is twisted.

How can these injuries treated?

Luckily, most ski and snowboard injuries are minor and can be treated with rest, bracing and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.  However, some fractures and ligament injuries may require surgical intervention when recovery periods can vary from three to six months, or possibly longer.

What are the best ways for a skier or snowboarder to prevent an injury?

Poorly functioning or improperly adjusted equipment is a frequent cause of injuries. A few examples of this are:

  • Binding that are too loose or too tight
  • Improperly sized equipment  
  • Equipment used on improper terrain
  • Preventative equipment such as helmets, can may prevent disastrous and even fatal accidents.

It’s also important for skiers and snowboarders to use common sense, while out on the slopes:

  • Staying hydrated during the day, and rest every couple of hours
  • Ski at your appropriate ski level
  • Stay safe during changing weather conditions, and alter your skiing schedule based on the conditions.

Is there a right way for a skier or snowboarder to fall?

If you are going to fall, just fall. Don’t put your hand or arm out to break the fall, as this can lead to upper extremity injuries.  Also, try to absorb the impact by rolling into the fall (tuck and roll), which may disperse the impact of the fall on your whole body.

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