Skiing

01 Overview

Skiing is a fun activity that can be done both recreationally and competitively. Skiers slide down hills and sometimes perform aerial maneuvers on skis. The sport is popular at the Winter Olympics, and each winter, skiers flock to BC ski resorts. Common injuries in skiing occur to the shoulder, knee and ankle.

(see Section 04 - Prevention)
Athlete silhouette
View Common Injuries by clicking the blue dots on the silhouette

Shoulder injuries (fractures, dislocations, and sprains) are one of the most common injuries in skiing.

Head and neck injuries are a major concern among skiers. These injuries can be severe and may result in permanent health problems (e.g., traumatic brain injury, complications following a severe concussion). Head or neck injuries mostly occur from a fall related to a technical error or a loss of control during an aerial maneuver or/and a large drop to the ground. Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and catastrophic injury in skiing.

Although rare, spinal cord injuries usually occur from a fall related to a technical error or a loss of control during an aerial maneuver and/or a large drop to the ground.

The thumb can be fractured, dislocated, or sprained, often as a result of a fall.

Lower limb injuries are common among skiers, specifically ligament tears.

Ankle injuries occur in skiing, as the boot places a large amount of energy on the ankle when the skier falls or collides with another skier or object.

02 Injury Statistics

The overall incidence of injuries sustained while skiing is relatively low. Common injury types in skiing are fractures, dislocations, sprains, contusions, lacerations, and wounds. Common areas of injury include the head, neck, spinal cord, shoulder, thumb, knee, and ankle.

Curious about the research on injuries?

It is estimated that...

03 Risk Factors

Risk factors in skiing include: use of equipment, skill level, alcohol/drug use, terrain condition, type of terrain, age, sex, and weather conditions. The most frequently reported mechanisms of injury include: technical errors, collisions with an inanimate object or a person, simple falls on ski slopes or after the execution of an aerial maneuver or/and a large drop to the ground, and falls from a ski lift.

  • Age

    Younger age groups, particularly adolescents, have a greater risk of injury.

  • Sex

    Females are at a greater risk of knee injuries compared to males. Male skiers are at a 2.2 times higher risk than females for head injury.

  • Level of Experience

    Beginners are more likely to sustain an injury compared to more skilled skiers. The first four days of skiing are the most dangerous, where a fall on a ski slope is often the mechanism of injury. Conversely, more skilled skiers sustain injuries during a fall after the execution of an aerial maneuver or/and a large drop to the ground.

  • Terrain Condition

    Inappropriate trail design and/or grooming can cause an increased risk of injury. The integrity of the slopes should be maintained by ski areas. Participants should increase their awareness and adapt their behaviour when they are skiing in bad conditions.

  • Alcohol and Drug Use

    Consuming alcohol or drugs affects judgment and decreases reaction time. These substances should be avoided on slopes.

  • Rented vs. Personal Equipment

    The risk of sustaining an injury is lower when participants have their own equipment. However, it is important to note that participants who rent equipment are usually also less skilled.

  • Poor Weather Conditions

    Poor weather conditions, including limited visibility and snow conditions, are a risk factor for injuries in skiing. Skiers should increase their awareness and adapt their behaviour in such conditions.

  • Terrain Park Design

    Inappropriate design or maintenance of terrain parks are a risk factor for injury.

04 How can I prevent injury?

Some muscle soreness or joint pain is expected when increasing your level of physical activity. It is important to listen to your body for persistent or worsening pain, and to know when to rest. Learn more about how to prevent injuries in skiing.

  • Participant & Parent

    Talk to your coach or organization, if applicable, about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Equipment – Helmets

    Wearing a ski helmet can reduce your risk of head injury in skiing. Be sure to wear a helmet on the slopes and that it is fastened correctly and free of cracks or other damage.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to alpine skiing.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the shoulder and back. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder and knee injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for participants and parents to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Education
    Evidence is mixed regarding the effect of educational programs on reducing injuries in skiing. Beginner and younger participants should have some basic knowledge and techniques before hitting the slopes.

    Skill and Ability
    Be aware of your abilities and experience. Be aware of your surroundings—another person could lose an edge, fall, and collide with you.

    Equipment – Ski Bindings
    The risk of injury can be reduced by the use of properly fitted ski bindings. A qualified technician or ski shop should check and adjust your bindings annually.

    Equipment – Ski Poles
    Skiers can sustain thumb injuries when falling. Learn how to hold your ski poles properly.

    Skiing Resources
    Many organizations have safety messages, educational content, videos, and an alpine responsibility code.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Alpine skiing is physically demanding and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Coach & Teacher

    Talk to your organization or school, if applicable, about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Trips to alpine ski areas are common school events. Younger age groups, particularly adolescents, are at greater risk of injury.

    Equipment – Helmets

    Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury in skiing. Be sure that skiers wear a helmet on the slopes and that it is fastened correctly and free of cracks or other damage.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to alpine skiing.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the shoulder and back. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder and knee injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Facilities
    The Ontario Physical Education Association (OPHEA) provides recommendations for safely implementing alpine skiing in secondary schools.

    Learn more about implementing alpine skiing in secondary schools.

    Education
    Evidence is mixed regarding the effect of educational programs on reducing injuries in skiing. Beginner and younger participants should have some basic knowledge and techniques before hitting the slopes.

    Skill and Ability
    Be aware of your students’ and athletes’ abilities and experience. Encourage them to be aware of their surroundings—another person could lose an edge, fall, and collide with them.

    Equipment – Ski Bindings
    The risk of injury can be reduced by the use of properly fitted ski bindings. A qualified technician or ski shop should check and adjust ski bindings annually.

    Equipment – Ski Poles
    Skiers can sustain thumb injuries when falling. Learn how to hold ski poles properly.

    Skiing Resources
    Many organizations have safety messages, educational content, videos, and an alpine responsibility code.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Alpine skiing is physically demanding and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Official & Administrator

    Talk to your coaches, teachers, organization, or school, if applicable, about the prevention strategies below and how they might be incorporated into training and policies.

    Trips to alpine ski areas are common school events. Younger age groups, particularly adolescents, are at greater risk of injury.

    Equipment – Helmets

    Wearing a ski helmet can reduce the risk of head injury in skiing. Be sure that skiers wear a helmet on the slopes and that it is fastened correctly and free of cracks.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource for coaches and teachers to learn more about how to recognize, prevent, and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to respond to a potential concussion situation, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program. Completing this warm-up program can lower the likelihood of injury.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to alpine skiing.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the shoulder and back. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder and knee injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Facilities
    The Ontario Physical Education Association (OPHEA) provides recommendations for safely implementing alpine skiing in secondary schools.

    Learn more about implementing alpine skiing in secondary schools.

    Improve visibility in poor weather conditions by increasing the size and frequency of signage on the slopes. In clear conditions, the average reaction time from the time that a sign comes into view to the time needed to respond to an obstacle is ~1,000 m/s; in adverse weather, signage placement should allow for longer reaction time in inclement weather. Update skiers with weather conditions and mountain reports.

    Increase trail grooming hours during periods of fresh snowfall, no recent snowfall, or in icy conditions. Groom during the day to maintain integrity of the slopes. Inappropriate design or maintenance of terrain parks can increase the risk of injury. Use signage to encourage skiers to respect their skill level when entering the terrain park.

    Education
    Evidence is mixed regarding the effect of educational programs on reducing injuries in skiing. Beginner and younger participants should have some basic knowledge and techniques before hitting the slopes.

    Skill and Ability
    Be aware of your students’ and athletes’ abilities and experience. Encourage them to be aware of their surroundings—another person could lose an edge, fall, and collide with them.

    Equipment – Ski Bindings
    The risk of injury can be reduced by the use of properly fitted ski bindings. A qualified technician or ski shop should check and adjust ski bindings annually.

    Equipment – Ski Poles
    Skiers can sustain thumb injuries when falling. Learn how to hold ski poles properly.

    Skiing Resources
    Many organizations have safety messages, educational content, videos, and an alpine responsibility code.

    Sport-related Physicals
    Alpine skiing is physically demanding and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. An annual sport-related physical evaluation ensuring fitness to participate can help to reduce risk of injury. KidsHealth provides information about what sports physicals are, why they may be appropriate and where you may go to get them.

    Learn more about Kids Health Sports Physicals.

  • Health Professional

    The role of health professionals in preventing skiing injuries has two main components:

    1. Providing ongoing education to participants, parents, and coaches on effective injury prevention programs such as balance and resistance training; and
    2. Ensuring that injured participants are completely healed and fit-to-perform before returning to skiing to prevent re-injury or chronic injury.

    Equipment – Helmets

    Wearing a ski helmet can reduce the risk of head injury in skiing. Be sure that skiers wear a helmet on the slopes and that it is fastened correctly and free of cracks or other damage.

    Managing Concussion

    It is important to be aware of concussion signs and symptoms and know what to do if concussion is suspected. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) is an online resource to learn more about how to diagnose and manage a concussion. CATT also includes resources on how to assess a potential concussion, as well as detailed Return to School and Return to Sport protocol.

    Strength Training and Neuromuscular Training Program

    The risk of all lower body injuries may be reduced by up to 50% by regular participation in a balance training exercise program with a resistance training component, such as a neuromuscular training warm-up program.

    Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    The Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre has developed a neuromuscular training warm-up program that can be adapted to many sports. Incorporating a warm-up program like this one into your training program at least two times per week has been associated with a significant reduction in lower body injuries.

    Click here to view poster.

     

    Get Set Neuromuscular Training
    The Get Set app contains exercises that can be done at home. Created by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, and Making Waves AS in 2014 for the International Olympic Committee, the app allows you to search by body part to view exercises that work to strengthen each area of the body, or search by sport to view a library of exercises that are specific to alpine skiing.

    Download Get Set for Android.

    Download Get Set for iOS.

    Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre Neuromuscular Training
    Adopt strength training exercises designed to prevent injuries to the shoulder and back. The Oslo Sport Trauma Research Centre has developed exercises that specifically help keep the shoulder strong and reduce the risk of shoulder and knee injuries. This resource includes videos and PDFs for download.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent shoulder injuries.

    Learn more about exercises to help prevent knee injuries.

    For more exercises, visit http://fittoplay.org/.

    Other Considerations (about this section)

    Sport-related Physicals
    Skiing is a physically demanding sport and some pre-existing conditions may increase the risk of injury. A sport-related physical evaluation at the beginning of each season ensuring fitness to play can help to reduce risk of injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information about preparticipation physical evaluation.

    Learn more about Preparticipation Physical Evaluation.

    Resources for Skiers, Teachers, Resort Operators, and Coaches
    Many organizations have safety messages, educational content, videos, and an alpine responsibility code.