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Stay Safe on the Slopes

Feb 15, 2011

Three Ways to Prevent the Most Common Injury Prone Mistakes

For more information contact:
Karyn Odway,
(312) 479-1271

Winter weather means it's time to hit the slopes. 

Midwest resorts are expected to outdo last year’s increased trend of skiers; and according to the National Ski Areas Association, more than seven million sports enthusiasts are snapping on their skies nationwide this season.

But with the renewed interest in the sport, surgeons at the Chicago Center for Orthopedics (CCO) at Weiss Memorial Hospital predict a spike in injuries in February and March, when most skiers head west for peak snow conditions.

The most frequent injuries affect the knee and shoulders with the most serious ones being head trauma and paralysis. 

“The most common initial symptoms that many Midwest skiers notice are the effects of altitude,” said Dr. Craig Westin, orthopedic surgeon at the CCO at Weiss. “Altitude sickness often involves headaches, poor sleep and shortness of breath because of poor oxygen levels in the blood.”

Dr. Westin suggests these Healthful Hints to protect skiers against injury:

  • Exercise before the trip. Increase aerobic and strength training exercise routine two to three weeks before you leave.  Strength training for the thighs, hips and back will give you better control on the slopes. Shoulders also need extra attention so you can push your poles or hang onto tows. Pre-trip conditioning will not only keep you in good form, but also prevent soreness after a day on the slopes.
  • Wear a helmet.  Make sure it fits well. It should be snug enough that it doesn’t move when you shake your head back and forth with the chin strap off. It also keeps your head warm and maintains a good body temperature. Make sure goggles fit over your helmet.
  • Hydrate. Mountain air is usually dry so drink plenty of fluids. It will help with muscle tone. Alcohol depletes the body of water and exaggerates these effects so be sure to drink it in moderation

And here’s one last Healthful Hint that won’t prevent broken bones or torn ligaments, but will avoid another type of pain—sunburn. Spring skiing comes with the greatest risk of sunburn, so protect your skin by wearing sun glasses or goggles and sun-block for exposed skin, including the lips.

For more information on preventing orthopedic injuries, visit