Skiing and snowsport foot injuries: how to reduce your risk
Skiing and snowboarding are wonderful sports when the sun is shining, the snow is plentiful and the piste stretches out in front of you like a well-ironed tablecloth. Yet even on the most perfect of days, how, where and for how long you ski can increase your risk of foot and ankle injuries.
A long day on the mountain
Skiing injuries can be sustained at all stages of your day’s skiing, but are more likely to happen after a day on the slopes when you are tired or dehydrated. Foot injuries can be sustained due to a fall, a collision, and even on a lift journey, especially if you’re trying for “just one more” run before the lifts close and the light fades. Altitude may also take a toll if you’re not sufficiently acclimatised.
Reduce your risk by: taking breaks in your skiing day, drinking lots of fluids, packing some snacks in case your blood sugar dips, and stopping when you still feel you could do another run (just don’t! ). According to some experts, the high risk time to ski is between between 3:30 and 5:00 pm when the sun sets, temperature fall and skiers’ muscles are tired.
Sudden change in conditions
Mountain weather can be beautiful one minute and blowing freezing ice and snow in your face the next. What was a simple run just 10 minutes ago can become a potentially dangerous run. Many injuries happen when skiers and snowboarders over-estimate their own capabilities, and/or venture off-trail when conditions are on the turn.
Reduce your risk by: Wearing layers of appropriate clothing including wind resistant clothing. Look out for new warning signs, and follow instructions from resort staff if required. Take your time, and ski the easiest route down available. If you can, take the lift down rather than ski in conditions beyond your capability (or visibility!). Keep as warm as possible, as cold muscles may reduce your physical capabilities too.
Ill-fitting ski boots
Correctly fitted ski boots are crucial to your success on the slopes. Not only will badly fitting boots hinder your progress, they are a short cut to potential injury too. One of these is skier’s toe, or toe bang. If your boots are not fitted properly, you foot will move around and you’ll bang you toe repeatedly. This leads to bleeding under the toe nail, and often considerable pain for a few days. You should seek medical attention as the blood under the nail (the haematoma) should be drained away.
Reduce your risk by: ensuring your boots are a snug fit (but not over-tight, and are properly dried and aired every night. Take time to adjust the fit of your ski boots if required, and budget to replace them at regular intervals if you ski a lot.
RICE for sprains and strains
If your ski boots are not fitting well or fastened properly, you are far more likely to sustain a sprained ankle. This usually happens when as skier lands on the outside of your foot and it twists inwards, resulting in torn tissues, pain and swelling of the ankle. Follow the RICE method to reduce the swelling as soon as possible, and seek professional help to check the injury and advise further treatment.
RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. It is a method that can help relieve pain, reduce swelling and promote healing for soft tissue injuries such as sprains, strains and bruising.
Rest and protect the injured or sore ankle.
Apply an ice or cold pack as soon as possible away to prevent or minimize swelling.
Wrapping the injured ankle with an elastic bandage will help decrease swelling. Don’t wrap it too tightly!
Raise your injured foot on pillows as often as possible, such as while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down.
(For more details on RICE here)
Tune your kit
Skis and snowboard need regular care and maintenance, as well as tuning to suit your physique, skiing style and ability. There’s a reason why top professional skiers have technicians looking after their kit! Well maintained and suitable skis will help you perform better and more safely.
As an article in LER (Lower Extremity Review) magazine explains:
“Modern skis come in different lengths, widths, weights, flex patterns, and sidecuts .. Skis should be fitted based on the skier’s ability and what type of skiing will be done. Generally, skis should be tuned every 5 to 7 days of skiing, not just once a season. Imperfections in ski surfaces result from everyday use on changing ground conditions and prevent skis from performing as they should. Tuning regularly fixes these and keeps skis in proper working condition.”
Reduce your risk by: buying the right skis for you and tuning them regularly. Get your bindings adjusted for your height, weight, and skiing ability. Always check your bindings before heading down any slope, especially if you have been walking in boots that might have accumulated snow or ice on the bottom.
Get fit for skiing
Maintaining fitness in between ski outings will help improve your skiing and reduce your risk of injury. Research suitable exercises to do at home that work the muscles you will use on the slopes. Also, ensure you warm up before heading out for that first run, after a cold ski lift journey, or a period of inactivity.
Reduce your risk by: exercising to keep your skiing muscles in good condition, and warming up before any ski run if you have cooled down from the last one.
Help with ankle and foot injuries
If your foot or ankle suffers a strain or soft tissue injury when skiing, just call to make an appointment with one of our foot specialists here at Hunt Footcare. Our team can assess your injury, advise on treatments, and help you recover faster and more effectively with a personal treatment plan.