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Common Ski Injuries and How To Prevent Them

October 05, 2020 4 min read

Ski touring season is here!  You’ve waxed your skis, refreshed your climbing skin glue (not necessary if you have the new Hagan hybrid skins!), and dug out your neck gaiter so you are ready to ski, right?  

Almost!  Before you head out the door, you might want to slow your roll and make sure your body is prepared for the season!  No one wants to get a season-ending injury, especially before the season has really had the chance to get going.  Preparation and prevention are always preferable to recovery! Let’s review the top skiing injuries, how they occur and a few basic things you can do to prevent them from ever happening!

Head Injuries

Everyone started somewhere when it comes to skiing, and you probably spent your fair share of time falling down too.  Head injuries are very common, ranging from a small bonk to a severe concussion, which usually result from falls, skier vs. stationary object collisions (trees, rocks) or skier vs. skier collisions.

The best thing you can do to prevent a head injury is to wear a helmet!  Find a comfortable one that fits your head well. Jazz it up with Hagan stickers if you need some extra incentive to wear one.  Also important is to know your limits as a skier. Ski in control at all times, don’t get into terrain above your skill level (or at least know a way out of that terrain) and be aware of other skiers around you.  

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries certainly can happen when you strap 5-foot wooden planks to your feet!  The most common injuries are strains or tears of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) or the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL). Injury to the MCL is usually the result of falling when the feet are rotated (for example, when snowplowing).  ACL injuries usually happen when landing with bad form from a jump or when you are fighting to prevent a fall.

The best prevention of a knee injury is preparation!  Strengthening the muscles around the joint can help protect your knees, as well as improve your skiing ability.  Squats, bridges and other leg-focused exercises can help build your quads, hamstrings and calf muscles, which will all work to keep your knee in alignment. 

Shoulder Injuries

The shoulder is a fairly loosely constructed joint that can be subjected to awkward forces during a fall.  The most common injuries are damage to the rotator cuff, dislocations and broken clavicles (collarbones).  The most frequent culprit behind a shoulder injury is actually your ski poles. If the tip is planted or caught on something, and you fall with your wrists strapped in, it can create an opposite force on your shoulder joint.  

The most basic prevention is to not use your ski pole wrist straps, especially when skiing in trees or high-traffic areas where you are more likely to catch them.  That way if you do catch them on a branch, or if you do fall, your hands will be able to release the poles safely.

Thumb Injuries

Injury to your Ulnar Collateral Ligament is so common, it’s actually referred to as “skiers’ thumb.”  Most cases of thumb injuries result from falling with a ski pole in your hand. Like with shoulder injury prevention is as simple as unstrapping your wrists from your ski poles, so that if you fall, you can let go and the poles harmlessly fall to the ground.  

Injury Prevention

To prevent ANY injury, you should be building up your strength, balance and agility, with special focus on a strong core and leg strength.  If you’ve been recovering for an injury, or just slacking in the offseason, it’s never too late to get some extra squats in! Check out this post for more exercises you can do to prepare for ski season.

Fortunately, ski touring has an inherent injury risk reduction protocol. Colder muscles and tendons are more prone to injury. And most injuries occur on the descents. Since 99.9% of ski tours begin with a climb, you are normally well warmed up before descending, reducing injury risk. Further, the lighter weight of touring skis puts less torque on knees if you do fall. Just be sure you aren't completely worn out, not just warmed up, when you finish your climbs. Take a break if necessary. Better, improve your strength and fitness so the climbs don't leave you too sapped to descend safely. Ditching your heavy gear for some lightweight Hagan equipment will also have you much fresher for your descents, in addition to climbing faster. 

#Skiwithabuddy is always wise, in case someone does have an unfortunate accident. Equipment matters, so take care of yours. Having your skis waxed and tuned makes a difference in your ability to ski smooth and straight.  Be sure to wear your helmet to protect your noggin (and look super sweet) and make sure your boots are fitted properly so you can enjoy your day on the mountain.  

Preparation is the best prevention, so take the time to prepare yourself for ski season.  It will be worth it when you can ski strong all season long!

Michael Hagen
Michael Hagen


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