Snow is back in the Tri-state area, and so is one of the season’s most popular activities: hitting the slopes. Whether you’re a lover of downhill skiing or more of a snowboarding enthusiast, the snowy and chilly weather means that winter sports are in full swing. But, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 200,000 Americans are injured participating in winter sports each year.
Fractures, sprains, strains and dislocations are at the top of the injury list. And one of the most common – and dreaded – season-enders is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. The ACL lies in the center of the knee, preventing your lower leg from moving too far forward. Skiers and snowboarders typically tear their ACL by falling with an awkward twisting motion.
Before you head to the slopes, check out these winter sports safety tips compiled by the orthopaedic experts at St. Elizabeth Healthcare.
Tips for Winter Sports Safety
If you want to hit the slopes this season – and stay out of the hospital, follow these top tips for winter sports safety.
- Condition during the off-season. Prevent injuries on the slopes by conditioning during the off-season. Cross-train with running, the elliptical or biking to strengthen your leg muscles. Our experts recommend strength training exercises that work your hip flexors and hamstrings – two important ACL protectors. Wobble boards are a great way to help your balance and coordination – and as we all know, fewer falls mean fewer opportunities for injury.
- Warm up. Don’t hit the slopes without warming up. Take five or ten minutes to stretch and get your leg muscles, hips and back ready for a fun day of winter sports.
- Skip “one last run.” A majority of injuries happen when you’re tired. Skip the last run and come back on a different day with fresh legs.
- Pick runs that fit your skill level. If it’s your first time out on a snowboard, start on the beginner level hills instead of heading to the nearest half-pipe.
- Check your equipment. Whether you’re renting your gear or bringing it from home, check your bindings, boots and skis or snowboard for any potential issues. It’s also important to adjust your equipment for your height and weight.
- Protect your head. Not all helmets are created equal – or serve the same purpose. Leave your bike helmet at home and make sure you’re wearing a helmet designed to protect your head while snowboarding or skiing. If you wipe out and hit your head hard, make sure to get checked for any signs of a concussion before heading back on the slopes.
- Stay hydrated. It’s hard to believe you can get dehydrated in the middle of winter, but it takes a lot of effort to ski or snowboard! Your body is sweating and using energy the entire time you’re on the slopes. Make sure to rehydrate when you head inside for breaks, and pack a few snacks in your pocket in case you get hungry in the chairlift line.
One last tip from our experts: stay alert. Many skiing and snowboarding accidents occur due to a lack of awareness. Check out your surroundings, make sure you have a clear path down the hill and always be on the lookout for potential issues. Remember, downhill skiers have the right of way.
St. Elizabeth Orthopaedic Experts are Ready to Help
If you get injured while on the slopes, the St. Elizabeth orthopaedic experts are here to help. Check out our cutting-edge orthopaedic care at St. Elizabeth Healthcare.