Winter is the time to stay indoors, wrapped in a blanket, sitting by a fire while the snow falls outside. Then some of us take advantage of the thick ice or heavy snow to enjoy some of our favorite seasonal sports. From skiing to snowboarding and ice hockey, there are countless things you can do this winter to stay active. However, as with any sport, it’s paramount that you take the proper precautions to avoid injury. Keep reading to learn how to prevent some of the most common winter sports injuries.
Injuries to the knee joint are prevalent, especially in skiers. Medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprains happen to be the most common knee injury. While the overall percentage of knee joint injuries has stayed the same for the past 25 years, the number of knee ligament ruptures, specifically that of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), has increased when compared to MCL sprains.
Besides the improvement in diagnostic technology, there are other reasons we see a rise in ACL tears. Most doctors can agree on the advancements in ski boots and bindings. While the evolution of these factors reduces ankle and shin injuries, it seems that the knee is now taking on most of the brute force from cutting turns and hard stops. Because the release mechanisms within the boots and bindings are not fast enough, your knees are more at risk of a twisting injury.
Not to worry, you can participate in several preventative activities. One thing you can do is wear a knee support. You should also use “multimode” release bindings because rear-release boots can reduce the risk of ACL injury. It would be best to have your bindings professionally serviced every year. This will ensure that they are appropriately adjusted for your personal use. Finally, try not to walk in your ski boots too much. Walking in your boots can affect the fit with the bindings and ultimately interfere with the release mechanisms.
As knee injuries are more common in skiers, ankle injuries are more common in snowboarders. Many snowboarders are at risk or have already had a fracture of the ankle’s talus bone. It’s essential that you see a doctor as these can be easily misdiagnosed as an ankle sprain, as the fracture does not always appear on x-rays. If the pain persists, you may need a CT scan to confirm the diagnosis.
You can do proprioceptive training to prevent such an injury, such as using a wobble-board. Wobble-board use will improve muscle strength, balance, and reaction times. You should start preventative training at least six weeks before your sports season and continue the training throughout your season, potentially replacing the traditional warm-up. You can also wear a sports ankle brace. These braces will act as a physical restraint, which will help you from going over on your ankle.
Hand and Wrist Injuries
A skier’s thumb results from a fall with the ski pole held in hand. The fall overextends the thumb and causes damage to the ulnar collateral ligament at the base of the thumb. Usually, the fall results in a sprain. However, there can be a complete rupture. For that reason, it’s always wise to see a doctor for the proper treatment advice.
Wrist fractures are more common in snowboarding but can also happen while skiing. As with any fall, the natural response is to stretch out your arms to try and catch yourself. Therefore, Scaphoid and Colles fractures of the wrist are relatively common injuries.
Don’t put your hands inside the ski pole loops unless you’re skiing in deep snow. Weaning thumb stabilizers will help protect the ulnar collateral ligament without limiting hand movements and function. For wrist injuries, you can wear wrist guards. You can purchase these from all good ski shops.
Head and Spinal Injuries
Head and spinal injuries are usually a result of a fall or a collision or due to chair lift accidents. Surprisingly, head and spinal injuries occur more in experienced skiers and snowboarders. Speed is the main factor. However, studies show that helmets lost some of their effectiveness when the injured individual in question was traveling at higher speeds. Although, helmets and eyewear are still the most effective measure you can take to avoid traumatic head and spinal injuries.
The Foot & Ankle Center
Have you injured yourself while participating in this season’s winter sports? Have you hurt yourself in the past and are looking for physical therapy exercises to help prevent a repeat injury? Contact The Foot & Ankle Center today. Our office of professionals is here to help you stay up on your feet. New patients can schedule an appointment here.