Fortunately for us here at Niseko Physio, skiing and snowboarding are relatively dangerous activities. Recently, lower leg injuries have been on the rise with increased risk-taking behavior being cited as the major reason. If you are unfortunate enough to sustain an injury on the slopes (or on the street!), remember the RICED and HARM rules for the first 24-48 hours after an acute injury, or longer for more severe cases:
– Rest from aggravating conditions;
– Ice for about 10-20 minutes several times daily;
– Compression using an elastic bandage or tubi-grip;
– Elevation above the heart is a good rule-of-thumb;
– Diagnosis get it diagnosed ASAP.
The H.A.R.M factors are the ones that you want to avoid (hence the clever acronym):
– Heat sorry, to be a party pooper, but the onsen is not good for a fresh ligament tear;
– Alcohol avoid the booze, it’s a vaso-dilator (increasing blood flow) and will increase swelling and inflammation, particularly for a lower limb injury;
– Running stay away from exercise in the short term;
– Massage no deep massage in the early stages.
For those interested in what types of injuries are commonly walking through the door of an on-mountain medical centre, read on for a list of the major injuries and some tips on what to do if you’re unfortunate enough to experience one of them.
These account for about 35% of skiing injuries and about 20% of snowboarding injuries.
The most common knee injury is the medial co-lateral ligament, the ligament that runs down the inside of the knee. This is a common injury in the beginner to intermediate levels due to an overly wide snowplough stance, skis crossing or a fall. In advanced skiers it is likely to be “catching an edge”.
The anterior cruciate ligament accounts for about 10-15% of knee ligament injuries and intensive American research identified the main causes as trying to recover from a fall, or overbalancing to the rear when landing from a jump.
This shock-absorber sits deep inside the knee and is often injured in combination with one of the pervious two.
To prevent these knee injuries, ensure you do pre-conditioning exercises, regularly adjust your bindings, avoid wide snowplough stances, don’t fully straighten your legs when falling and don’t try and get up when falling – wait until you stop.
25% of all snowboarding injuries occur in the wrist. A whopping 70% of all wrist injuries are fractures – so please by-pass Niseko Physio and head straight into Kutchan Hospital if you sustain a painful wrist injury.
A massive 42% of wrist fractures occur in people snowboarding for the first time. Wrist guards have been proven in various studies to be effective in reducing wrist injuries. In general, longer wrist guards are better than short and look for a degree of flexibility in the guard.
These account for 15% of ski injuries, and are the most dangerous of all. Most fatal injuries occur in people skiing at high speeds, out of control and hitting a solid, fixed object. To avoid head injuries wear a helmet, ski in control, match your speed to the conditions and always look where you’re going.
Shoulder injuries include dislocation, AC joint injuries and clavicle fractures and are approximately equal between boarders and skiers at 10-15% of injuries.
This ranks second to knee injuries in skiers and occurs when the thumb is driven into the snow and driven away from the palm. The more severe cases require an operation to reattach the thumb ligament. Ouch! It’s best not to wear straps on your stocks.
These are quite rare but have devastating consequences. They are most common in young men and follow a pattern of excess speed, losing control and a bad landing from a jump.
Contrary to popular belief skiers are more likely to collide with and injure fellow skiers than snowboarders. We poor boarders tend to bite the dust much sooner when we lose control!
To sum up
Whichever way you get down the mountain try to remember these hints:
– Don’t borrow gear from your friends. This increases your chance of injury a massive 800%!
– Recognize when you need a break.
– Most injuries occur after lunch when tiredness sets in. “I was going down my last run of the day….” Is a common beginning to a patient history at Niseko Physio.
– Hard though it may be, avoid being persuaded to try slopes and jumps that are beyond your level of ability. You’re more likely to be injured trying to keep up with more experienced friends.
– Wear a helmet! And wrist guards for boarders.