Planning on heading to the slopes for a bit of winter fun? Skiing and snowboarding are great ways to stay fit while enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors. But it’s important to take some precautions before you click into your bindings because ski and snowboard accidents result in thousands of visits to the ER and doctor’s offices each year.

What are the most common types of winter sports injuries?

  • Sprains
  • Strains
  • Dislocations
  • Fractures

How can you prevent getting injured on the slopes?

Maintain your fitness level. Many injuries can be prevented by being in good physical condition before you participate. Cardio will improve your stamina and help you adjust to mountan altitudes. Strengthening muscles, especially your quads, hamstrings and core, will help your body handle the rigors of these outdoor activities.

Warm up thoroughly. Cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are more prone to injury. Since it’s typically colder outdoors when skiing and snowboarding than what you’re used to when you work out in a gym or elsewhere, give yourself more time to warm up than usual.

Check equipment and gear carefully. Make sure all equipment is in good working condition and that gear fits properly and securely. Have your equipment checked by a ski shop technician and have bindings set specifically for you (don’t borrow someone else’s skis or snowboard and assume it’ll be okay). Wear appropriate gear, including a helmet, goggles, padding and gloves.

Dress appropriately. Your body temperature will change throughout the day so it’s best to dress in layers so you can adjust to those changing temperatures. Make sure all footwear fits properly, has adequate ankle support and keeps your feet dry.

Take a lesson. If you’re new to the sport or haven’t participated in a while, it’s a good idea to take a lesson or two before hitting the slopes on your own. Not only will you get tips to improve your technique, but the most important thing you’ll learn is how to fall properly to reduce your risk of injury.

Take it easy. When you’re just starting out, don’t do too much too soon. You may be tempted to tackle a more difficult trail than you’re ready for, especially if you’re out with more advanced skiers or boarders. But take the time to practice and perfect your technique before you head down steeper slopes.

Drink plenty of fluids. Your body needs fluids when you’re exercising in the cold just as much as when it’s warm. Drink before, during and after your time on the mountain.

Pay attention. Being distracted is a sure-fire way to get injured. Watch out for people around you, obstacles and warning signs. Practice the rules of the mountain. Also stay abreast of weather conditions so you don’t get caught off-guard.

Stop when you’re tired. Many injuries occur at the end of the day, when you’re tired but just want to get in one last run. Call it quits when you start to feel fatigued or sore and you’re less likely to get hurt before you head home.

Sources:

http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00062

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/phys-ed-how-to-avoid-injury-on-the-slopes/?_r=0

http://www.mensfitness.com/training/endurance/7-ways-to-avoid-injury-as-a-new-skier