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Skiing and Snowboarding Injury Prevention: Reducing Risk on the Slopes

Dec 14, 2016

Cold weather is here and snow is starting to fall, which means the unofficial start of skiing and snowboarding season! While this is a fun and exciting time of year, snow sport injuries are common and can range from minor bumps and bruises to serious trauma and head injuries. The good news is, there are many ways to help prevent these injuries. Here are a few tips endorsed by the Canadian Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Use Protective Equipment

Certified helmets, goggles, and protective wrist guards are all important pieces of protective equipment. Look for helmets and brands that are certified by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) which sets the standard for both skiing and snowboarding helmets. Goggles protect your eyes from debris and reduce sun glare to provide better vision while going down the slopes. Wrist guards are encouraged for snowboarders since they often fall forward and catch themselves on their hands. One of the most common ways young athletes can injure their wrists is a FOOSH injury (Falling On an Out-Stretched Hand). Making sure equipment is adjusted correctly and fits properly (especially bindings) can help prevent injury.

Ensure a Safe Environment

One of the most important parts of creating a safe environment for your skier or snowboarder is parental oversight. It’s essential that parents provide supervision and education especially when the athletes are young or new to the sport. They can do this by ensuring the child receives formal instruction on both technique and safety from a professional instructor and by gradually introducing more difficult terrain over time as skill allows. Parents should also inform their children of risks of skiing or snowboarding out of bounds and using improper speed.

Nutrition & Hydration

Snow-sport athletes often rely on their endurance since they are typically out on the slopes for hours at a time. This can be part of what makes these sports so enjoyable but can also increase kids’ risk for injury. Adequate hydration and fuel for the body is imperative to keep kids alert and focused. Most snow-sport injuries tend to happen later in the day when athletes are hungry or fatigued and this can be avoided by taking breaks every couple of hours and to eat. Also, with cold weather, kids may not feel like they are sweating but they definitely are.  Parents should encourage water breaks to rehydrate.

Here are some extra tips from the National Ski Areas Association Responsibility Code for Reducing Risk:

  • Always stay in control
  • People ahead of you have the right-of-way
  • Stop in a safe place for you and others
  • Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield
  • Use devices to help prevent runaway equipment
  • Observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails
  • Know how to use the lifts safely

For more information from the Nationwide Children’s Sports Medicine team, click here.

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Maggy Rule, MS, AT, ATC
Sports Medicine, Athletic Trainer

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700 Children’s features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.