This injury accounts for 10% of all skiing injuries and occurs when a ski pole catches in the snow during a fall. This will overextend the thumb and the pressure exerted bends the thumb towards the hand, most likely causing a sprain but sometimes a total rupture. By not placing their hand inside the ski pole loop, the skier greatly decreases the risk of sustaining this injury. Treatment includes ice, compression, painkillers and physiotherapy in the early stages.
Fractured wrists are more common among snowboarders and particularly beginners for the natural reaction when falling is to break the fall with an outstretched hand. Approximately 100,000 snowboarders suffer a wrist fracture each year. It is advisable for beginners particularly to wear wrist guards. If a wrist injury is sustained, it is important to go to A and E and confirm the fracture via x-ray. Most often, initial treatment is to place the wrist in plaster for 6 weeks.
Knee Ligament Damage
The knee joint and its associated ligaments currently accounts for roughly 30-40% of all alpine ski injuries. The Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) strain, due to a twist of the knee, had always been the most common knee injury but Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries are on the rise. Skiers now have better ankle and shin support with improved boot technology but this means the forces previously affecting this area now affect the knee joint and ACL ruptures are common. Knee braces can offer approximately 30% more resistance to the forces exerted on the knee ligaments, while ‘multi mode’ or rear release bindings can significantly reduce the risk of a twisted knee. If you sustain a knee injury, consult an orthopaedic specialist or physiotherapist.
Head and Spine Injuries
The least common but most serious of ski/snowboard injuries affects young, confident males with a penchant for speed. Collisions with trees, lift towers or others are the dangerous result from being out of control and at high velocity, even helmets are thought to not be 100% effective. If a head or spinal injury is thought to be sustained, seek medical attention immediately. It is likely the sufferer will need to be monitored closely for 48 hours after the incident.