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Hurt on the slopes? Need-to-know advice to treat an injury for quicker recovery

Feb 22, 2011

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

Skiing is one of winter's pastime wonders, but it can be dangerous if you're not careful. For some on skis, the adrenaline rush can replace common sense.

The most likely part of the body to get injured while hitting the slopes is the knee. It accounts for 45 percent of all skiing injuries. Shoulder injuries are a close second.

If you get hurt away from home, sports medicine surgeons at the Chicago Center for Orthopedics (CCO) at Weiss Memorial Hospital suggest you have the ski patrol take you for evaluation to the first aid station, which often times has doctors on site with X-ray and other services.

“If you broke a bone, you’re going to need to be treated for it on-site," said Dr. Craig Westin, orthopedic surgeon at the CCO at Weiss who spent nearly 20 years as medical director at Alta and Snowbird Ski resorts in Utah. “If you tore a ligament, it’s best to wait until you return home before seeking surgical options.”

But Dr. Westin advises skiers to take immediate action to reduce the inevitable swelling that comes with most knee and shoulder injuries. He suggests this Helpful Hint: Keep the acronym R.I.C.E. in mind.

  • Rest: Immediately get off the injured body part and stay off of it to help the healing process.
  • Ice: As a rule, an injury should have ice applied regularly for 48 hours.
  • Compression: Use a stretchable cloth bandage to wrap around the injured body part. Make sure it's snug but not tight.
  • Elevation: If possible, elevate the injured part above the heart to reduce swelling.

If surgery is recommended, another reason to wait until you return from your ski trip is to reduce the risk of thrombosis, or blood clots, on your flight home. For more information on treating orthopedic injuries visit