The beginning of 2014 bought several massive snow storms to the US, causing states of emergency and snow days in locations that normally do not get much or any snowfall. But in northern parts of the country where snow is a regular part of life, the storms were cause to celebrate both for skiers eager to hit the slopes and the ski resorts eager to make money.
While the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia may be attenuating the desire to get out and play, last week's news that Russian Olympic freestyle skier Maria Komissarova suffered a spinal injury while practicing has brought a grave reminder that skiing, like any sport, comes with its own risks.
Komissarova fractured her twelfth thoracic vertebra in the lower part of her mid-back when she fell practicing a jump. The injury was serious; it required immediate invasive surgery and the implantation of a metal device to stabilize the spine. She will likely need a second surgery in the coming weeks.
It's important for skiers to educate themselves about potential skiing injuries and their causes, then to take steps to prevent them. While some of the injuries associated with the sport are minor, others, like Komissarova's, can be life-altering.
• Ankle twisting
• ACL tear
• Knee twisting
• Arm, wrist and shoulder breaks and sprains (from breaking falls)
• Head injury (from falling or collision with other skiers or objects such as trees)
• Spinal injury (from falling)
The best weapon in your preventive arsenal is proper training. New skiers should take lessons that teach them proper techniques, including how to fall without causing injury.
Another essential element of ski injury prevention is a wise and reasonable choice concerning the course you ski. Watching those Olympians perform amazing feats seemingly effortlessly may encourage bold decision-making, but remember: You're not an Olympian. Choose courses that match your skill level. Huge jumps and paths with many obstacles, including twists and turns, are injuries waiting to happen for the novice skier.
Be very aware of others on the course. Colliding with fellow skiers can result in both minor and serious injuries for all parties involved. Share the course, be patient and double-check for objects and people that may cross paths with you.
As with any sport, it's important to warm up before you ski. You'll be taxing your muscles, ligaments, tendons and cardiovascular system. Perform static stretches before your session to get the blood flowing. See http://www.skiclub.co.uk/skiclub/news/story.aspx?storyID=9016 for good warm-up stretches for skiers.
You can not control everything on the slopes, but you can increase your chances of avoiding injury this season by educating yourself on common causes and types of injury. Take the above steps to keep yourself healthy and well this winter.