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Skiers, snowboarders can take steps to help reduce injuries

By Paige Fieldsted - Daily Herald - | Dec 7, 2011

Winter is here and with it comes the beginning of the ski and snowboarding season. While your gear may be ready to hit the slopes, your body may not and that could mean serious injuries.

The most common type of injuries vary depending on whether you ski or snowboard and skill level, but Dr. Brent Rich at Utah Valley Sports Medicine says certain things can help everyone prevent injury.

“Because both skiing and snowboarding are lower extremity sports, keeping yourself in shape, whether that is running or walking or keeping thighs in shape or even biking is a good idea,” Rich said. “It is wise that you don’t go from complete sedentary to skiing three days in a row. Your legs may not take it and if you are less conditioned your chance for injury increases.”

Rich recommends doing exercises like squats and lunges to strengthen quadriceps. He also says it is a good idea to stretch before and after a day on the slopes to help prevent soreness and future injuries.

According to a report presented at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine conference in 2007 skiers and snowboarders are injured at the same rate but suffer different types of injuries. Sixty percent of ski injuries are lower-body injuries, while most snowboarder injuries are upper-body-related.

“The most common injury we see in snowboarders are wrist fractures just because of the way they fall,” Rich said. “Skiers primarily suffer knee injuries, like ligament tears.”

Rich says at Utah Valley Sports Medicine they see more snowboarding injuries than skiing ones, but skiers’ injuries tend to be more severe.

“Injuries often times become more surgical-related in skiing,” Rich said. “You don’t usually have to do surgery on a broken wrist but you will have to on a ligament tear.”

According to the same report, skill level also plays a big role in injuries. More than 20 percent of snowboard injuries occur on a person’s first day out and close to 70 percent happen with in the first week of trying the sport. Rich says beginning snowboarders should wear wrist guards to help protect them during falls and consider taking lessons.

While injuries are more common for beginners, the severity usually increases with skill level.

“As people become more experienced they get more shoulder, elbow or even spine injuries because they try more tricks,” Rich said. “As you get more advanced you don’t fall as much, but when you do it is going to cause more damage because you are trying to do too big of tricks.”

Concussions are another common injury Rich sees and he says most of those patients were wearing helmets at the time of the accident.

“It is much more accepted now to wear helmets when you ski and snowboard, but that has a double-edge sword because the helmet gives people a feeling of invincibility,” Rich said. “Just because you have a helmet on doesn’t mean it is going to completely prevent you from getting a head injury.”

Rich says anytime people hit theirs head it is a good idea to get checked out. He cited the 2009 death of actress Natasha Richardson as an example.

“Her injury they thought was just a mild concussion but it became a brain bleed,” Rich said. “The important part is if there is any concern a person ought to be evaluated because seemingly innocent head injuries could have devastating consequences hours later.”

Rich says the same is true with any injury.

“If symptoms persist for more than 24 hours get checked out,” he said.

“Listen to your body. If you start to get tired don’t try to do one last one, because that is when injuries happen most.”

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