For Patients Physiotherapy Wellbeing & Fitness

The Most Common Skiing Injuries and How to Avoid Them

Written by Mr Deepu Sethi for Doctify

With the skiing season upon us, it’s the time of year when people start returning from their holidays with a variety of ligament and bone injuries.

Here, Mr Deepu Sethi gives us an overview of the most common skiing injuries and how to prevent them, so you can enjoy your next ski holiday in comfort.

What are the most common skiing injuries?

Well, this does depend a little on the skiing conditions. With more icy conditions, it’s more difficult to slow down and people tend to fall onto their hands, therefore shoulder injuries and wrist injuries are more common.

However, with softer snow the vast majority are knee injuries, where the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) are most commonly injured.

Who’s most likely to get injured skiing?

Usually, those least prepared for their skiing holiday are more likely to get injured. When you go from an office environment to spending several hours each day on a ski slope, it can be difficult to manage the physical aspect of skiing. A combination of poor core strength, lack of aerobic fitness and poor proprioception (awareness of the position of your body) and balance contribute to the vast majority of injuries.

When do most skiing injuries occur?

The most ‘dangerous’ time is half way through your holiday, in the afternoon. This is when fatigue starts to build in the untrained skier, leaving you more likely to do something that may cause an injury.

Why are more skiers getting more knee injuries?

Doctors who work in orthopaedic surgery, are seeing more knee injuries during the skiing season. This is probably due to multiple factors:

  • Ski design – More modern curved ski’s tend to ‘carve’ through the snow rather than stick or drag on the snow. This often has the effect of steering the ski away from the body and twisting the knee.
  • Boot design – Modern boots do a very good job of protecting the ankles and shin. The consequence of this, however, is that more load and rotation is transmitted to the knee.
  • Poor preparation – Skiing is becoming more popular, with an increasing number of people skiing who have no previous experience. It is important to prepare prior to hitting the slopes.

What can I do to prevent skiing injuries?

  • Start your physical preparation at least 6 weeks prior to your skiing trip. Work on your core muscle strength and aerobic fitness. Regular swimming, cycling and using a cross trainer would be an excellent start.
  • Take lessons – If you are new to skiing, take lessons. A good skiing technique minimises your risk of injury.
  • Take a rest day – If you start to feel the fatigue after a few days take a rest day. Muscle fatigue reaches its peak 48 hours after you hit the slopes.
  • Don’t drink alcohol at lunchtime – It increases your confidence and decreases your reactions, a perfect recipe for an injury.

What should I do if I sustain an injury?

  • Make sure that you have adequate medical insurance before you leave home.
  • Most ski resorts have excellent medical facilities and are very experienced at treating skiing injuries.
  • If you are unlucky enough to fracture (break) a bone, in the majority of cases it makes sense to have these treated (and if necessary operated on) before you fly home.

If you get a knee injury, without fracture, these can largely be treated once you return home. ACL injuries are the most common knee injury. In my opinion, they should be treated once you have arrived home. The reason being, operating on a swollen stiff knee very soon after a knee injury often results in a poor outcome.

In the first few days and weeks following an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury, the priority is to reduce the swelling and increase the range of motion of the knee. Surgery can be safely performed weeks or months after the initial injury.

The most important thing is to prepare for your skiing holiday, enjoy yourself and have fun skiing!



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