The rate of injuries in snow sports is relatively low at only 2 – 4 injuries per 1000 days participation, but it’s worth being prepared for the minor injuries that may occur during your trip. Here are some first aid tips for winter sports…
While skiing and snowboarding are different sports, and the injury pattern associated with them is different, there are two types of minor injury common to both: soft tissue injuries such as sprains and contusions, and cuts and abrasions.
Sprains and Contusions
These soft tissue injuries are the most common type of injury in skiing and snowboarding. Alpine skiers are at risk of rotational injuries up the whole leg, particularly a sprain in the knee joint. Falls are also a regular cause of injuries, particularly to the shoulders, arms and hands. For instance, thumb sprains can be caused when the ski pole forces the thumb backwards during a fall – this injury is sometimes called skier’s thumb.
Snowboarders can injure their wrists falling either forwards or backwards onto outstretched hands, and they can also injure their shoulder in a fall.
Contusions (bruising) result from impact with a hard surface, or object, such as a T bar.
How to Treat a Sprain or Contusion
Soft tissue injuries including sprains and contusions are treated using the PRICE Protocol. This acronym stands for:
Protect. Take adequate steps to protect yourself from sustaining an injury, for instance by using appropriate protective equipment such as a helmet and correctly adjusted bindings. It’s also important to prepare yourself physically before undertaking this type of sport and to seek professional instruction if you are a beginner. If you do sustain an injury, you must then stop the activity to protect the injury from further damage.
Rest. Sprains need to time to heal, so take some time out, at least for a few days or until the pain and swelling has disappeared.
Ice. Cooling a soft tissue injury will relieve pain and reduce the amount of swelling, so apply something cold to the injury in sessions of 20 minutes or so. You can use ice wrapped in a towel or freezer bag, or one of the medical products designed for the job, such as an instant ice pack, reusable hot and cold pack or an ice bag.
Compression. Applying pressure to the injury will help to prevent excessive swelling. The best way is to wrap the injured joint with a stretchy bandage such as crepe or cohesive bandage. You should start wrapping below the injury and then wrap upwards to just below the next joint, taking care not to wrap too tightly. Regularly check the circulation beyond the bandages.
Elevation. Raising the injured part up above the level of the body will help to reduce swelling and bruising. Therefore, when resting, support the injury in an elevated position wherever possible.
Minor Cuts and Abrasions
Both skiing and snowboarding have an incidence of minor head and face injuries, resulting from being hit by a swinging T bar as it recoils on disembarkation, or from catching the face on a tree branch.
How to Treat a Minor Cut or Abrasion
- Stop the bleeding by applying pressure to wound for a few minutes with a clean piece of absorbent material. If you’ve got access to a first aid kit, you can use a piece of gauze, or a dressing for this.
- Wear medical gloves, or wash your hands if possible, to protect yourself and the person being treated (if it’s not yourself) from infection.
- Clean the wound, ideally using clean running water. If you don’t have access to running water, but you do have a first aid kit, you can use sterile wound cleansing wipes.
- Dry the wound with either a clean piece of material, or a piece of gauze.
- Apply a sterile dressing, such as a plaster or low adherent dressing pad.
We’ve put all of the items you need for treating various minor injuries into a pocket-size snow sports first aid kit (click here to buy.) It’s small enough to carry with you when you are on the slopes, so you can be prepared.