Playing it Safe

By Active Alyssa \ March 12 2018

The mountains are calling, and we must go... Safely! The mountains in Utah provide us with hours of entertainment and activity. But most of us do not think about how to trudge safetly through these mountains that we love. Many people have had to take the dreaded toboggan ride down the mountain with ski patrol due to an accident that could have been avoided. Although we're all out to have a good time, we have to remember to use good judgment to keep each other safe.

Here are my top 10 ways to stay safe, avoid accidents, and prevent injury on the mountain.
1. Slow down around high traffic areas. (Stay under control and within your comfort zone).
2. Wear a helmet. (This will help prevent concussions and/or brain injury).
3. Take Breaks when fatigued. (Most injuries occur when skiers/boarders are tired).
4. Know your limits. (green circle for beginners, blue square for intermediate, and black diamond for expert). 
5. Visibility. (Wear proper fitting goggles, defog your lenses, and be aware that snowboarders have a blind side). 
6. Keep your distance from other skiers/boarders. (The downhill skier has the right of way and you never know when they will take a turn).
7. Look uphill when merging trails. (Traffic 101, yield to on-coming traffic).
8. Do not stop in the center of a run or where you are not visible from above. (You will get hit).
9. Follow signs and avoid closed areas. Ski patrol close off these areas for a reason. (Avalanches are real and exposed rocks are not fun to hit). 
10. Make yourself heard when coming up from behind another skier/boarder. (Hoot, holler, or give a heads up).

Ski Run Rules:

Dr. Stuart Willick, sports medicine specialist at University Orthopaedic Center and an expert in ski injury research. He sees athletes of all ages and all sports injuries. Here are the most common injuries on slopes and how you can avoid them.

Wrist Injury:
"The wrist is the most commonly injured body part in snowboarders. Wrist injuries occur when a snowboarder falls onto an outstretched hand. Backward falls to the snowboarder’s heelside result in more wrist injuries than forward falls to the snowboarder’s toeside. The wrist opposite the lead foot gets injured more commonly than the wrist on the same side as the lead foot of the rider. These types of falls can result in a wrist bruise, a wrist sprain or a broken bone. Wrist bruises typically get better on their own within days to weeks. Wrist sprains are usually treated with a wrist brace for several weeks. The treatment of a broken bone in the wrist depends which bone was broken and what type of break it is. Some broken bones can be treated in a splint or cast for about 6 weeks.  Some broken bones can be reduced, or put back into place, without surgery, and then casted for about 6 weeks. Some broken bones will do best in the long run with surgery. Most commercially available wrist braces are not supportive enough to prevent wrist injuries. The best way for snowboarders to prevent wrist injuries is to learn proper technique when riding and falling. If a snowboarder is falling, it is usually better to “tuck and roll,” rather than fall onto their outstretched hand."—Dr Stuart Willick

Skier’s thumb:
"The term “skier’s thumb” refers to an injury to a small ligament at the base of the thumb, where the thumb meets the web space that is in-between the thumb and pointer finger. Although this ligament, called the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb, is only a few millimeters long, it is very important for maintaining the stability of the thumb. The ligament is injured when a skier falls onto their hand, and the thumb gets suddenly and forcefully pushed away from the other four fingers. The grip of the ski pole can sometimes increase the force on the thumb. In these types of falls, the ulnar collateral ligament can be partially torn or completely torn. When the ligament is partially torn, the usual treatment it to brace the thumb and wrist for several weeks. When the ligament is completely torn, most people will do better in the long run if they have the ligament surgically repaired. The diagnosis of skiers thumb can often be made by a qualified physician based on the history of the injury and physical examination. X-rays are usually obtained to make sure there are no broken bones. At times, the physician will order an ultrasound or MRI study of the thumb to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of the injury (for example partial or complete ligament tear). The type of ski pole grip that one uses has never been shown to increase or decrease the risk of skier’s thumb. The best way to prevent having a skier’s thumb injury is to avoid falling in such a manner that your thumb gets pushed away from the rest of the hand."—Dr Stuart Willick

Knee Injuries:
"The knee is the most commonly injured body part in skiers. Knee injuries are less common in snowboarders. Most knee injuries fall into one of four categories:  contusions, sprains, fractures and cartilage injuries. A contusion is simply a bruise from a direct impact. Bruises can be very painful, but always get better. A sprain is an injury to a ligament.  Mild ligament sprains, and even some complete ligament tears, often improve on their own with time and/or physical therapy. Skiers who sustain a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) inside the knee will usually do better in the long run if they have the ligament surgically reconstructed, followed by extensive physical therapy. A fracture is a broken bone. Certain knee fractures, particularly ones in which the bones have moved out of place, require surgery. The cartilage is the cushion inside the knee, and includes the meniscus. Some cartilage injuries require surgery, but many do not. If your knee is swollen or if you can’t bear weight on your knee after a ski crash, you should see a sports medicine physician.

Balance exercises and strengthening exercises for the core, hip and thigh muscles are one important part of keeping your knees stable and preventing knee injuries.  Another important part of preventing knee injuries is proper skiing technique. Research has shown that maintaining good balance on your skis and avoiding getting "in the back seat" with your weight too far backward, can decrease your risk of knee injuries during skiing."—Dr Stuart Willick

Of course, no one wants to even think about injury or missing a powder day or just the chance to slide on some groomers with your family. My hope is that the above rules and tips will further prepare you to be safe on the mountain.

A HUGE thanks goes out to the University of Utah Health for caring for all the Team USA Olympians in the 2018 Winter Games.

~XOXO, Bring on the SNOW!