Staying safe on the slopes: injury prevention tips for skiers and snowboarders – News

UAB Sports Medicine offers some ways to make that last ski trip of the winter a safe one.

inside CaspAaron2 1Aaron Casp, M.D., UAB Sports & Exercise MedicineFor Alabamians, a ski or snowboard trip is just a few hours away. And with spring on the horizon, many people are heading to the mountains to enjoy the last bit of winter weather. Before hitting the slopes, keep a few things in mind so that an injury does not put a damper on the winter holiday.

“Some of the most common injuries in skiing are knee ligament injuries, shin-bone fractures, and shoulder/collarbone injuries,” said Aaron Casp, M.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a physician with UAB Medicine’s Sports and Exercise Medicine clinic. “We see the same injuries in snowboarding, but we frequently see wrist injuries or wrist fractures as well.”

Casp, who is also a team doctor for the United States Alpine Ski Team, has some recommendations for staying safe and making sure a ski vacation remains fun and injury-free.

Have the right equipment

“Ice and snow are obviously slippery, and you can fall at any time,” Casp said. “An appropriately fitted helmet can protect the most important part of your body. Ski boots, skis and bindings that fit and are well-maintained will ensure they release and not overly torque your knee when you fall.”

Get your body ready

Casp says, while mimicking the demands of skiing and snowboarding is not easy here in Alabama, being in “ski shape” can be accomplished with some at-home workouts. “The most important muscles that get fatigued during snow sports include your quadriceps, hip abductors and glutes,” he said. “There are a number of ski preparation workouts on the internet, and they usually involve some combination of squats, lunges and plyometrics. This should start several weeks before your trip, and can significantly decrease your risk of a knee injury if your legs begin to fatigue.”

Ski to your level

“When you get to the mountain, make sure you are aware of your abilities, and stick to terrain that is appropriate for your level,” Casp said. “If this is your first time, I highly recommend a professional lesson or ski school. This will make sure you understand the basics and are safe and will make the rest of the trip much more enjoyable if you aren’t spending all your energy getting up from a tumble.”  

Traffic on the mountain

Casp notes that more and more people are making ski trips, so the bigger resorts are getting more crowded. Collisions happen and can result in significant injury. He recommends always trying to move predictably down the hill. Do not stop in the middle of the trail to wait for people, and never stop where uphill skiers and snowboarders cannot see you, such as just downhill of a roller. If trails are merging, always yield to the uphill traffic coming down the hill.

Stay safe at altitude

The altitude of mountains in Western states is high, and the air is very dry, quite different from the Alabama climate, says Casp. “It is much easier to get dehydrated, so make sure to drink lots of water, bring Chapstick and hand lotion. Also, alcohol can affect you considerably more at high altitude and cause faster dehydration. This can impair your judgment and make for dangerous skiing — not to mention the nasty hangover you will feel the next day.”

To schedule an appointment with the UAB Sports & Exercise Medicine clinic, call (205) 930-8339 or visit


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