By Matt Goodwin
Skiing is a fast-paced sport that can be challenging to even the most seasoned professional. The uncertainties of the slopes coupled with high speeds and bountiful obstacles make every skiing trip unpredictable.
That being said, exactly how dangerous is skiing? What are the true facts on ski injury?
The sport has become increasingly more popular in the last couple of decades. Every year, skiing gets more attention and coverage, convincing more novice skiers to give it a try. However, the sport also receives plenty of attention for its risks and dangers. With a number of high-profile accidents and injuries in recent years, the sport has a developed a precarious reputation. But with the right knowledge and precautions, you can enjoy the slopes safely.
Due to the nature of the sport, there are a number of common injuries that skiers can face. They range from minor cuts and bruises to life-threatening head and spinal injuries. With that in mind, the chance of experiencing an injury is relatively low. According to studies by Dr. Mike Langram, there are roughly 2.3 skiing injuries per 1,000 visits. Around 85% of injury victims are male while 70% are between the teenagers and in their early 20s.
Knee injuries are some of the most common, accounting for up to 28% of skiing injuries. The natural position of the body while skiing and immobility of the lower leg can lead to a wide variety of injuries. During a fall, skis may abruptly turn to one side, causing the knee to dislocate or fracture. The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, can easily sprain or tear. In fact, ACL injuries affect over 20,000 skiers every year.
Head and Spine Injuries
These injuries are usually the most severe, with serious injuries possibly having a life-long effect. Head injuries can occur from falls, collisions with obstacles, and collisions with snow. They account for roughly 17% of all skiing injuries. Without proper head protection, skiers can fracture their skull or experience brain damage. Body and spinal injuries account for roughly 12% of all skiing injuries. Overall, there are about 45 serious skiing injuries every year that result in brain damage or paralysis.
According to the National Ski Areas Association, around 39 people have died each year from ski related injuries in the last decade. Considering that the number of winter sports participants averages around 10 million each year, that number is low. However, many of these fatalities can easily be avoided.
The leading cause of injury is reckless behavior and inexperience. While the sport does offer a thrilling experience, some skiers take that adrenaline rush overboard. Many injuries occur when skiers attempt to take on more advanced slopes than they are ready for. These slopes usually have more obstacles and require skiers to move at faster speeds, resulting in injury. To avoid this, be aware of your skill level and use caution.
Using Proper Equipment
Before hitting the slopes, skiers need to ensure that they have the proper equipment. While it may not seem like a big deal, a slightly loose ski boot can lead to serious injuries. Equipment should fit properly so that skiers are protected at all times. Extra padding and protection on knees, wrists, and other parts of the body can lessen the blow of a fall. While they are not required, skiers should also use a helmet. They can help to keep the head protected during a fall and lessen the chances of traumatic injury.
Ski Lift Safety
Ski lifts are a vital part of the skiing experience. However, they can be dangerous if not used correctly. Injuries can occur during load and unloading. That being said, only 13 deaths have occurred due to ski lift accidents since 1973.
Overall, skiing does have its risks. However, when compared to other sports, the risks of injury aren’t as significant. Skiers can avoid injury by being prepared for the risks and taking the right precautions to avoid them. Skiing provides an amazing adrenaline rush that should be experienced by every adrenaline junkie and thrill seeker. With proper preparation and awareness, skiers can enjoy the experience and reach the bottom of the slope injury-free.
Matt Goodwin is the content manager of of Hix Magazine, an online magazine for men with a passion for outdoor sports. Find Hix Magazine on Facebook.