So winter has well and truly landed with people either bemoaning the fact and planning winter escapes to sunny lands, or, wringing their hands in glee at the possibility of good snow over the next couple of months. I swing between the two, but I do love a good cold, frosty morning and enjoy my walk through the fallen leaves to work rugged up in beanie, gloves and coat. Hopefully you have started some sort of exercise programme if you plan on going to the snow this winter, but if not, don’t worry it isn’t too late to start. If you are struggling with motivation, then let me take you through some research that may jolt you into action.
There have been a number of studies that have recorded and analysed injuries sustained by recreational skiers and snowboarders at various ski resorts around the world. Unsurprisingly perhaps, skiers and snowboarders have different patterns of injury. Skiers sustain more lower extremity injuries than snowboarders, who suffer more upper extremity injuries4. Injuries to the knee are the most common for skiers, with research reporting one third of all skiing injuries affecting the knee3. Snowboarders are at particular risk of wrist fractures, leading to recommendations for wrist guards, which have successfully lowered the incidence of wrist injuries2,4.
Meta-analysis research is regarded as the crème de la crème of research, in which all published papers on a topic are rigorously scrutinized and analysed, with statistics combined for further analysis. A meta-analysis of 98 studies published in 2015 on injury risk factors and prevention strategies for recreational snow sports identified a wide range of modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors2. Experience level was found to have a significant impact on injury risk for both skiers and snowboarders; beginners are far more likely to injure themselves than intermediate or advanced participants. Falls are the major cause of injury for beginners, whereas the more experienced are more likely to sustain an injury as a result of a jump. The increased injury risk for beginners is possibly due to lower strength, coordination and skill than more experienced skiers and snowboarders. So if you needed any more motivation to get cracking on a strength and fitness programme to help you prepare for a holiday on the snow, there’s pretty strong evidence for you.
One major non-modifiable risk factor is that being female increases your risk of injury on the slopes. This is also true in other sports and much research has been undertaken to identify causes and to develop prevention strategies for female athletes. It is well known that females are at more risk of anterior cruciate ligament injuries than males in sport. Whilst it is still a mystery as to what exactly causes the gender difference, it is imperative for female snow sport aficionados to accept this risk and implement prevention strategies. Recognised strategies include improving strength, coordination and balance1.
Another key factor is equipment. One of the big changes in my nearly 30 years of skiing, apart from snowboarding thankfully influencing snow fashion in a positive way (who ever thought that a fluoro patterned “onesy” looked good?), is the use of helmets. I can’t believe I skied for years without one; I can’t believe that some people still don’t wear them. Research clearly supports the use of helmets for snowsports. As a stark example, non-helmet users were 2.3 times more likely to die from a head injury than helmet users2.
Take home messages:
- Wear a helmet! And I mean one specifically designed for snowsports, not your old bike helmet
- Wear wrist guards if you are a snowboarder
- Get fit and get strong before your snow holiday, particularly if you are inexperienced
- Include balance and coordination training in your snow preparation programme
- If you are female, unless you want to add your knee injury to the statistics, get onto a training programme now!
Come in and see us at Absolute to ensure you are training smart for the winter season.
- Hebert-Losier, K & Holmberg HC. (2013). What are the Exercise-Based Injury Prevention Recommendations for Recreational Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding? Sports Medicine (2013) 43:355–366
- Hume, PA, Lorimer, AV, Griffiths PC, Carlson I, Lamont M. (2015). Recreational Snow-Sports Injury Risk Factors and Countermeasures: A Meta-Analysis Review and Haddon Matrix Evaluation, Sports Medicine, DOI 10.1007/s40279-015-0334-7.
- Ruedl G et al. (2011). Interaction of Potential Intrinsic and Extrinsic Risk Factors in ACL Injured Recreational Female Skiers, International Journal of Sports Medicine, 32: 618–622
- Stenroos, A, Handolin, L. (2014). Incidence of recreational alpine skiing and snowboarding injuries: six years experience in the largest ski resort in Finland, Scandinavian Journal of Surgery 104: 127–131