Once a year, a week at full throttle on the ski slopes: This is what winter holidays look like for many Germans. For some, the long-awaited trip to the mountains ends in hospital.
According to the orthopaedist and accident surgeon Prof. Mirco Herbort, the urge to get the maximum amount of snow experiences out of the vacation days is a main risk factor for this.
The doctor from the OCM Clinic in Munich treats many injured people from the alpine ski areas every winter. Except for last year: “It was really quiet there. In that sense, Corona was one of the greatest preventive measures for sports injuries in world history.”
This winter, however, there will be a lot more winter sports tourism. And with it more work for the surgeons in the clinics. We give an overview of typical injuries in the most popular snow sports – and how they can possibly be avoided.
Sport Most common injury in skiers
Knee injuries are the classic among ski injuries. “The knees are subjected to the most stress. We’ve had a lot of cruciate ligament and meniscus injuries all winter,” says Prof. Rohit Arora.
As director of the University Clinic for Orthopedics and Traumatology in Innsbruck, he has many injured winter sports enthusiasts from the surrounding Tyrolean ski areas on the operating table every ski season.
Knee injuries often do not happen in high-speed falls, but in the most unspectacular and bitter way possible. According to the Munich surgeon and knee specialist Herbort, caution is particularly important when using the lifts.
“I wasn’t careful when exiting, a ski got stuck in the snow and my legs were twisted like a knock-knee: the leverage of the skis quickly ruptured the cruciate ligament.”
Sport Attention snowboarders: protects hands and co.
Forearm fractures, dislocated shoulders and elbows, broken wrists and collarbones: it’s the upper extremities that are more prone to injury when snowboarding.
Have to protect the wrists snowboard gloves often protectors integrated. Mirco Herbort finds these protectors useful, even if many find them uncomfortable. “Fractures in the wrist area can be serious,” he says.
Don’t underestimate the pain and swelling of the joint after a fall. “If you operate on it too late or if you immobilize it too late, bones can die because the circulation situation in the area is often difficult,” he explains. In the worst case, the joint stiffens.
Sport Skiers and snowboarders: don’t overestimate yourself
It doesn’t matter whether you’re blasting down the slopes on skis or a snowboard: A healthy dose of reflection and risk perception is advisable in order to get through the holiday without injury and having fun. “The worst thing is overconfidence,” says Rohit Arora. “Especially at the beginning, after not driving for a year.”
In addition, you should always adapt your driving style to the weather conditions. Especially when visibility is poor, icy patches or muddy hills on the piste are quickly overlooked. If you then go too fast, you risk serious falls.
You should also listen to your body: If it feels tired, you should take it easy or take a day off completely. Even if you are actually full of inner vigour, to speed down the slopes.
Sport Fall correctly in cross-country skiing
Cross-country skiing is considered the low-risk alternative to alpine skiing. As long as it goes straight or uphill, not too much can actually happen here. Injuries mainly occur on short descents, when winter sports enthusiasts lose control of the long, narrow skis and fall.
“Because they often straddle, this can lead to symphysis fractures in the pelvis,” says Rohit Arora. That’s why his advice is: Always fall sideways when you realize that you can no longer stand safely.
Sport Wear a helmet when tobogganing
For fun and variety, many ski areas operate their own toboggan runs. Not very wide, fast and winding, they often lead through the middle of a forest.
Night tobogganing is particularly popular. Some first drink a few beers and fruit brandy on the mountain and then venture onto the illuminated toboggan run.
But the combination of night tobogganing and alcohol is dangerous, warns Arora. He knows the consequences of unchecked descents with the sled against a tree. The result is severe craniocerebral trauma and injuries to the upper spine.
You should therefore always wear a helmet, especially when the toboggan run leads through the forest. After all, even when you’re sober it can happen that you don’t get the curve. Also a back protector can never do any harm when in doubt, but only help.