Warm Up, Take Breaks to Prevent Ski Injuries

What you need to know before hitting the slopes

woman that fell down during skiing

There’s a difference between us recreational skiers and the elite-level skiers we’re watching in the Olympic Games, and it’s not just how fast we go. We get different kinds of injuries.

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Olympic downhill skiers are traveling at lightening speeds – as fast as 140 miles an hour. When they have an accident, the results often are catastrophic, says orthopedic surgeon Anthony Miniaci, MD, FRCSC. For the recreational skier, injuries tend toward knee injuries or sore muscles, Dr. Miniaci says.

In this Q and A, Dr. Miniaci answers questions about recreational skiing, and he offers advice to avoid the injuries common for those of us who hit the slopes for fun and to stay in shape.

Q: What do you advise to prevent injury while skiing?

A: You should always have a few easy warm-up runs before you dive into black diamond. Take plenty of breaks, stay hydrated and eat foods with good nutritional value to keep your energy stores full. Also, be sure to stretch to help your muscles recover.

Q: What are the most common ski injuries?

A: In downhill skiing, the athletes see more knee injuries. For recreational skiers, a lot of injuries we see frequently occur at bottom or top of the ski lift. You’re sitting on the chair lift, someone steps on your ski, then when you get off, you twist and fall over.

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Q: Would wearing a knee brace while skiing help prevent injuries?

A: There is no evidence to indicate that prophylactic bracing will prevent injury.

Q: What type of helmet should be used when skiing to maximize protection?

A: There are different types of ski helmets, depending on the type of sport: slalom skiing, ski jumping etc. A helmet that fits well and protects your head is the most important.

Q:With winter sports, is there a recommendation on how long you can be outside (and at what temperatures) before needing to come back in and warm up?

A: Feeling cold and frost bite are different. There are specific recommendations. Blanching of the exposed skin is indicative of developing frostbite. Skin protection is most important, and making sure that you feel warm.

Q: What is best for pulled or sore muscles, icing the injury or heat?

A: The concept behind heat is to improve blood flow to the area. The concept behind cold therapy is to decrease the inflammation. There are discussions supporting each. Spasms are best treated with heat.

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Q: With muscle aches and sprains, how do you know when rest is better or therapy is better?

A: Time is a great indicator. If the pain is persistent and does not go away after a couple of weeks or if the pain is intolerable, it is recommended to be evaluated by a physician.

Q: It is important to go to rehab after a sport- related injury? Does age make a difference?

A: Unfortunately, age makes a difference with everything. Good rehabilitation programs following injury or surgery will help in your recovery.

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