Many injuries and deaths are preventable.
The holidays bring time together and, for many, time on the slopes. Snow sports are inherently dangerous, including high speed, obstacles both seen and unseen, extreme temperatures, and the unpredictable actions of other skiers and boarders.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans are injured participating in snow sports, most especially skiing and snowboarding. Many of those hurt or killed are children.
Many injuries and deaths are preventable. Here are five ways to have fun safely on the slopes.
-- 1-- Wear a helmet.
Approximately 20 percent of the snow sport injuries for which people seek treatment are head injuries. With speeds between 15 and 65 miles per hour and higher for recreational skiers, prevention of head injuries is essential.
Remember that you aren't the only one out there. Being skilled and cautious aren't enough.
-- 2 --Protect your wrists and hands.
For snowboarders and feature park visitors: Wrist guards are proven to reduce the incidence and severity of wrist injuries, includes sprains and fractures. Without them, many breaks are severe enough to require surgery.
For skiers: Hold your poles rather than place your hands through the straps. Breakaway straps protect you from injury when your pole is snagged behind you, but not when you fall. Having the pole in your hand is what causes "skier's thumb," a sprained or broken thumb due to falling on the pole.
-- 3 -- Use equipment properly adjusted for your body.
Knee injuries, especially tears to the anterior cruciate ligament are one of the most common injuries among skiers. Such injuries occur almost exclusively when a skier falls backward. Because the toes are in boots bound to the ski and cannot move, the knee takes the force of the fall.
Have all ski and snowboard bindings adjusted to your physical dimensions and skill level. Do research into different types of bindings, the types of skiing they are best-suited for, and how bindings increase or decrease injury rates.
-- 4 --Be alert and fresh.
Rest - don't ski or ride when tired.
Fatigue increases risk of injury. According to American Society for Orthopedic Sports Medicine website StopSportsInjuries.org, most injuries on the slopes occur in the afternoon when people are mentally less alert and physically tired. Wear layers to keep yourself comfortable in a variety of conditions, wear goggles and sunscreen, eat and drink water. Not only are you less likely to get hurt, you'll have more fun.
-- 5 --Consider padding for knees and shoulders.
Shoulder injuries are common in snow sports. Both skiers and snowboarders fall on their shoulders. Older athletes have lower bone density and a corresponding increased risk of shoulder injury.
Hockey players don't take the ice without knee and shoulder pads. Anyone who visits the feature park is also engaging in a contact sport and should protect themselves appropriately.
The information for this article came from published medical journals including the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, the Journal of Pediatric Surgery and Sports Medicine.
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