There is snow in the Sierra. Ski areas are up and running. As such ski injuries are back in the picture.
The late fall and early winter season seem to always bring questions about precaution. When answering that question I tend to think about “The Four E’s”: exercise, equipment, experience, and environment.
With exercise I am referring to a skiers overall physical condition. If you are in shape you fatigue less easily and your body will work more efficiently to stay in balance and correct off balance turns and falls.
Equipment continues to be updated. These updates not only enhance enjoyment but reduce the risk of injury. New equipment needs to be selected and adjusted based on the skier’s size, experience and often snow conditions. Older equipment should be inspected and “tuned” by an experienced/certified technician. Also in the realm of equipment is protective clothing. Modern sports wear has come a long way in terms of keeping people warm and providing protection from hypothermia. Layering of clothes made from different material so that they provide functions seems to be the answer.
Experience refers to a skier skill set and level of expertise. Ski runs are typically marked based on degree of difficulty. Choosing the more appropriate run not only decreases the risk for injury but increases the enjoyment.
Environment is meant to address the conditions during the ski outing. Is the snow new? Is that new snow heavy which is common in the sierra or it lighter? Snow conditions can vary even in the same day. Early morning “old snow” can often be hard, fast and icy while afternoon snow that has been exposed to sun can become soft or even slushy and tend to grab the ski. Falls and twisting injuries in heavy snow often account for sprains and ligament tears while falls on hard, fast, icy terrain often leads to fractures or head injuries (helmets should always be worn).
Visibility can be dramatically reduced with heavy winds or heavy snow storms. Proper eye wear and skiing in less exposed parts of the mountain can make for a safer outing. These points contained under the heading of the “4 E’s” are for the most part common sense in their origin, but little things like not skiing when your fatigued or having your equipment checked in the preseason can make a big difference.
Finally, all these suggestions are equally applicable to the snow boarder.
If you sustain an injury while skiing or snow boarding and the soreness and swelling lasts for more than 2 days or there is significant loss of motion or alignment you should be evaluated. There can be significant injuries that don’t clearly show themselves.