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Attention Skiers - Do You Know the Most Common Ski Injuries and Treatment Needed?

PROHealth
1/1/2010

Attention Skiers: Do You Know the Most Common Ski Injuries and Treatment Needed?

ProEx wishes you a healthy and fun ski season. We also recognize that as long as there is snow, mountains and skiing there will be injuries. With that knowledge we listed a few points to keep in mind to minimize your chance of ski injuries:

• Always make sure your equipment fits and is sized properly to your skill level

• Always ski with a partner

• If you begin to become fatigued (especially if your thigh muscles begin to feel weak), stop and take a break. Injuries are more likely to occur when you are tired

• Call it a day when the conditions become icy or very slushy

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DO YOU KNOW THE MOST COMMON SKI INJURIES?
The most Common Ski Injuries we commonly see during ski season are listed below:

SKI HAND INJURIES

Gamekeeper’s Thumb (or Skier’s Thumb)

What is it?
Gamekeeper's thumb is a clinical instability of the first MCP (metacarpal phalangeal) joint caused by a tear or stretching of the UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) in the thumb. The UCL is a band of tough fibrous tissue that connects the bones at the base of the thumb. This ligament prevents the thumb from pointing too far away from the hand.

How does it happen?
When a skier falls with his or her hand caught in a ski pole, the thumb can be pulled away from the hand. Because of the shape of the ski pole, the thumb tends to get caught and significant stresses are placed on the UCL. If the ligament is pulled far enough, it will tear.

What is the treatment?
Non-surgical treatment can be considered in partial tears of the UCL. This injury may be treated by immobilizing the thumb in a splint for a certain period of time to avoid movement and facilitate healing. Your physician may prescribe Ibuprofen to help decrease acute pain and swelling and allow for better follow-up examination. You should also follow the RICE acronym to reduce pain and swelling: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Ice should be administered for 20 minutes at a time, and it is recommended that your skin return to normal temperature before re-applying.

Complete UCL tears may require surgical intervention, discuss this option with your orthopedic surgeon to decide what is best for you. Patients may be placed in an immobilizer for a certain amount of time by their physician to reduce movement and facilitate healing. Physical therapy may be recommended by a surgeon to increase the strength and flexibility of the thumb.


SKIER KNEE INJURIES


ACL Tear (Anterior Cruciate Ligament)


What is it?
The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is one of the four major ligaments in the knee. Its purpose is to maintain stability and reduce excessive forward movement of the lower leg (tibia) in relation to the thigh bone (femur).

How does it happen?

Several years ago, ski manufacturers designed stiffer ski boots with improved bindings to help reduce the risk of fractures, protect the ankle and improve performance of the skier. However, by reducing the stress to the ankle and lower leg the boots have increased the stress to the knee. A sudden stop or twisting motion will translate to the knee, and possibly tear or rupture the ACL.

What is the treatment?
If the tear is mild, then your physician may recommend a knee immobilizer brace for a certain period of time to avoid movement and facilitate healing. Your physician may prescribe Ibuprofen to help decrease acute pain and swelling and allow for better follow-up examination. You should also follow the RICE acronym to reduce pain and swelling: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Ice should be administered for 20 minutes at a time, and it is recommended that your skin return to normal temperature before re-applying.

If there is a moderate tear or a total rupture of the ligament then it will require surgical intervention. ACL surgeries may require a graft from another ligament or a cadaver to replace the damaged ACL. A common rehabilitation time for ACL surgery is 4-6 months and will require physical therapy to strengthen and increase the flexibility of the involved leg.


MCL Tear (Medial Collateral Ligament)

What is it?
The MCL is one of the four major ligaments of the knee. Its purpose is to stabilize the knee on the medial side (inside portion of the knee) and to prevent a rotational movement as well as the knee shifting from side to side.

How does it happen?
Again, the improved equipment over the years to protect the ankle and reduce fractures in the lower leg has increased the potential for an MCL tear. By reducing the stress to the ankle and lower leg the boots have increased the stress to the knee. A sudden twisting motion will translate to the knee, and possibly tear or rupture the MCL. The likelihood of rupturing the MCL is significantly less than that of the ACL in skiers, but a mild to moderate tear to the MCL is still common for skiers.

What is the treatment?
For a mild to moderate tear, then your physician may recommend a knee immobilizer brace for a certain period of time to avoid movement and facilitate healing. Your physician may prescribe Ibuprofen to help decrease acute pain and swelling and allow for better follow-up examination. You should also follow the RICE acronym to reduce pain and swelling: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Ice should be administered for 20 minutes at a time, and it is recommended that your skin return to normal temperature before re-applying.

If there is a total rupture of the ligament, then surgery may be an option. You should discuss this with your orthopedic surgeon to decide what is best for you. Physical therapy may be recommended by a physician to help increase the strength and flexibility of the knee.

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The content on this page is intended to provide information to the general public in regards to care of acute injuries. It is meant to supplementand not replace the the advice of medical professionals. In the event of an injury or illness you should always consult your physician and discuss options and treatment pertinent to your individual case.

 

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