by James Ruddick

This year I will be joining the millions of us who will be hitting the slopes this winter, and enjoying that euphoric feeling of hurtling down the mountain side, swooshing this way and that. I also hope that like the 98.2% of skiers I’ll have a great time – ‘injury free’. Sadly though that means that for some skiers (2-3 per thousand per day (Koehle 2002)) their holidays will be coming to a painful end, however in this blog, I’m hoping to help give you a better chance of avoiding that.

Forewarned is forearmed…so let’s look at who’s most at risk and of what. According to the research Snowboarders are more likely to injury themselves that skiers (Kim et al 2012), but contrary to popular opinion, the research suggests (at least in the US) that skiers are more dangerous, (so be wary of everyone on piste) though since snowboarders have been introduced to some resorts injury incidence has risen by approximately 13% in the US.(Rust 2013)

Here are the most common areas of the body to be injured…

Most common ski injuries:

  • Knee injuries (ligaments especially)
  • Concussions / minor head trauma
  • Shoulder damage
  • Leg soft tissue (muscle) damage
 Most common snowboarding injuries:

  • Wrist
  • Shoulder
  • Ankle
  • Concussion
  • Clavicle (fracture – snowboarders are twice as likely to suffer a fracture than skiers)

(adapted from Kim et al. 2012)

Interestingly while snowboarders are most likely to injure themselves as young beginners, it’s the more experienced skiers who tend to be more in danger (Kim et al 2012). Another interesting piece of research was done looking at risk taking behaviour and injury prevalence and it showed that actually injury correlated more closely with skill level than behaviour, so taking lessons may be more important than just taking it easy. (Goulet 2000) As wrist injuries make up over a quarter of snowboarding accidents I would strongly advice wearing wrist guards to protect yourself.

So how can we prevent these problems from affecting us?

As with most things preparation is the key! If the body is to cope with the falls, which are fairly inevitable, then we must prepare for them. The best way of doing this is to start a reasonable exercise program ideally upwards of 6 weeks before you go. If you’re already training then doing ski specific training will help too. I will leave this topic for a separate blog needless to say most personal trainers will be able to help create an appropriate program.

If you have any niggling injuries or tightness it is advisable to see a health care professional like an osteopath or chiropractor who can help make sure your body is as mechanically efficient as possible to be able to cope with the bumps, twists, and turns you can expect on the slopes. Also having lessons is really important as poor technique will load joints inappropriately, and put the body under unnecessary strain.

Mentally you should always be in control, don’t go too fast, and ski at your own ability level; this will help with your confidence, and keep you enjoying your skiing. If anxiety tends to get the better of you, you might like to consider seeing a cognitive behavioural therapist or clinical hypnotherapist like Abi Strevens, or Linda Flanigan, who can help you overcome your fears.

Outside the body, the most important thing you can do is get fitted properly for your equipment. Equipment is only as good as the fit, so using a reputable fitter, should help ensure that you get the right equipment for your body, and standard of skiing. It’s also really important to make sure you have the right clothes, sunglasses, and of course sun cream to protect yourself from some the harsh environmental conditions.

Finally, applying common sense is important and this includes adhering to ‘ the ski way code’ as set out by the international ski federation. Then when you’re just about to set off make sure you do a gentle warm up before taking the slopes, or at least take the first run of the day gently. Across the week the commonest time to injury yourself is towards the end of the third day, and this is thought to be as a result of exhaustion so make sure you stop appropriately, resting is important to allow your body to recover, and there are usually plenty of nice restaurants to get some water to re hydrate (or a nice hot chocolate), but make sure you don’t drink too much alcohol as that will affect your reactions and balance.

In a later blog I’ll be writing about what to do if you do get injured.

This blog was written by James Ruddick (email him)
James is a keen skier, osteopath, and sports scientist based at Summertown Clinic if you’d like to book an appointment with James please ring our friendly reception team on 01865 558561


Koehle, Michael S, Rob Lloyd-Smith, and Jack E Taunton. “Alpine Ski Injuries and Their Prevention.” Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) 32, no. 12 (2002): 785–793.

Kim, Suezie, Nathan K Endres, Robert J Johnson, Carl F Ettlinger, and Jasper E Shealy. “Snowboarding Injuries: Trends over Time and Comparisons with Alpine Skiing Injuries.” The American Journal of Sports Medicine 40, no. 4 (April 2012): 770–776. doi:10.1177/0363546511433279.

Rust DA, Gilmore CJ, Treme G. “Injury patterns at a large western United States ski resort with and without snowboarders“. Am J Sports Med. 2013;41:652-656.

Goulet C, Regnier G, Valois P, et al “Injuries and risk taking in alpine skiing” In: Johnson RJ, Zucco P, Shealy JE , eds. Skiing Trauma and Safety. Vol 13, ASTM STP 1397. West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania: ASTM International; 2000:139-146.

Edward Heneved 2000 as cited on the website

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