Blog > Most Common Snowboarding and Skiing Injuries: How to Prepare & Prevent

Most Common Snowboarding and Skiing Injuries: How to Prepare & Prevent

Skiing boy in ski mask and helmet on Sochi ski resort Krasnaya polyana in Russia

Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding are exhilarating activities enjoyed by many families during the colder months. However, along with the thrills of these sports come the risks of injuries. As parents, it’s essential to be aware of the most common injuries associated with skiing and snowboarding and how to prevent them. In this blog post, we’ll explore common injuries, treatment options, and when to seek professional medical help for your child’s winter sports injuries.

History of Skiing

The history of skiing dates back thousands of years, with the first evidence of its practice traced to 8000-6000 B.C. In 6300 B.C., the earliest known set of skis was discovered in Russia. Skiing also played a significant role in military conflicts, notably during the Great Northern War in 1716, where troops from Russia, Sweden, and Norway engaged in battles on skis. Fast forward to 1841, recreational skiing took a notable step forward with the introduction of the first recreational skis in Beloit, Wisconsin. Advancements continued in the 20th century, with the development of plastic-shelled ski boots in 1962, revolutionizing comfort and performance. The latter half of the century witnessed a surge in recreational skiing, with the 1970s marking a significant growth in participation and the establishment of skiing as a popular leisure activity worldwide.

History of Snowboarding

The roots of snowboarding trace back to the 1960s when Sherman Poppen crafted the “Snurfer,” essentially a surfboard adapted for snow use. Building upon this innovation, Dimitrije Milovich entered the scene in the 1970s, refining the concept further with his creation of the “Winterstick,” which marked the inception of the first snowboard company. Concurrently, pioneers like Jake Burton Smith and Tom Sims were independently developing what would become the modern snowboard, complete with bootstraps and a contemporary shape. As the sport evolved, the 1990s witnessed significant advancements, notably in the development of high-backed boot bindings, enhancing both safety and performance. By this time, snowboarding had surged in popularity, becoming the fastest-growing winter sport with over 6 million participants. Its inclusion in the 1998 Olympics solidified its status as a mainstream winter activity.

What are the Most Common Skiing Injuries?

Skiing carries with it a certain degree of risk. Among the most prevalent injuries, knee sprains, including tears to the ACL and MCL ligaments, top the list, often resulting from the sudden twists and turns inherent in navigating the slopes. Shoulder dislocations and fractures also rank high. Additionally, ankle injuries and Skier’s thumb, caused by falls or collisions, are frequent concerns for skiers of all levels. Wrist fractures are another common ailment, particularly among beginners who may instinctively reach out to break a fall. It’s worth noting that approximately 18% of skiers are beginners, highlighting the importance of proper training and caution on the slopes. While skiing undoubtedly offers exhilaration and adrenaline, it’s crucial to prioritize safety and awareness to mitigate the risk of injury and ensure an enjoyable experience for all.

What are the Most Common Snowboarding Injuries?

Snowboarding, with its blend of speed, skill, and adrenaline, offers an exhilarating experience on the slopes. However, like any sport, it comes with its share of injury risks, particularly for beginners. Wrist fractures are the most common snowboarding injury, often resulting from falls backward, with a staggering 73% of incidents occurring in this manner. Knee injuries, predominantly caused by falls forward, follow closely behind, highlighting the importance of proper technique and balance. Ankle sprains and fractures are also prevalent, with a significant majority of injuries affecting the lead foot, typically the left foot for regular stance riders. It’s noteworthy that nearly half of all snowboarders are beginners, emphasizing the necessity of proper instruction, equipment, and caution on the slopes. While the allure of shredding fresh powder is undeniable, prioritizing safety and awareness can help mitigate the risk of injury and ensure a rewarding snowboarding experience for enthusiasts of all levels.

General Risk Factors & Considerations

As parents, ensuring the safety of children on the slopes is paramount, and understanding the various risk factors and considerations can help mitigate the likelihood of injuries while skiing or snowboarding. Firstly, the importance of physical conditioning cannot be overstated; being in good shape significantly reduces the risk of injuries. Additionally, the timing of activities on the mountain plays a crucial role, with increased injury rates observed in the morning due to inadequate warm-up and at the end of the day due to fatigue. It’s important to note that you are most likely to get injured during the first or last run of the day. This pattern is particularly evident during vacation periods, with the first and last days of ski week posing heightened risks. Bindings are pivotal in protecting the body, with high-quality bindings capable of reducing fractures by up to 80%, although they haven’t had the same impact on ligamentous injuries. 

Snow conditions also influence injury patterns, with hard packs increasing the risk of high-speed impacts and powder posing a greater risk of twisting injuries. Parents should also be vigilant of transitions between snow qualities and be mindful of ski characteristics, such as increased length leading to higher speeds and less control, or shaped skis offering better turning characteristics but potentially causing torque issues. By understanding these factors and taking necessary precautions, we can help ensure our children enjoy a safe and rewarding experience on the slopes.

How to Treat Various Skiing Injuries

When it comes to skiing, the safety of our young ones is of utmost concern, but unfortunately, injuries can still occur. Understanding the specific injuries that can happen on the slopes and knowing how to effectively treat them is crucial for our children’s recovery and overall well-being. Skiing-specific injuries such as MCL and ACL tears, skier’s thumb, and shoulder injuries are not uncommon among pediatric patients. Therefore, being informed about appropriate treatments is essential. In the case of shoulder dislocations, swift action is vital—stabilize the shoulder and seek immediate medical attention for reduction. For torn rotator cuffs, conservative treatments like rest, ice, and physical therapy may be recommended initially, but in severe cases, surgery may be necessary. By understanding how to manage these injuries and ensuring prompt medical care, we can support our children’s recovery and help them get back to enjoying the slopes safely and confidently.

Treating ACL, MCL, & Other Knee-related Injuries

Knee injuries are unfortunately common occurrences in both skiing and snowboarding, frequently resulting in damage to crucial ligaments such as the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and MCL (medial collateral ligament). When it comes to managing these injuries in pediatric patients, a combination of approaches is often used. For skiing-related knee injuries, the R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) can help alleviate pain and reduce swelling. Depending on the severity of the tear, physical therapy may be recommended to strengthen the knee and improve mobility, while in more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to repair the damaged ligaments. Similarly, for knee injuries sustained while snowboarding, treatment typically involves rest, ice, and physical therapy to promote healing and restore function. However, in cases of significant tears, surgical intervention may be required to fully address the injury and facilitate recovery. By understanding these treatment options and promptly seeking appropriate medical care, we can help ensure the best possible outcomes for our young ones recovering from knee injuries sustained during winter sports activities.

How to Treat Various Snowboarding Injuries

Snowboarding, with its exhilarating twists and turns, can sometimes lead to injuries, especially in pediatric patients. From wrist fractures to shoulder dislocations and even spine injuries like the dreaded “scorpion,” knowing how to address these snowboarding-specific injuries is essential for your child’s well-being on the slopes. When a snowboarding injury occurs, quick and appropriate action can make all the difference. For dislocations, immobilize the affected joint and seek immediate medical attention for relocation and further assessment. Fractures of the clavicle may require the application of a sling to support the arm, followed by prompt medical evaluation for potential casting or surgery. Rotator cuff strains can be managed with rest and ice packs, while physical therapy may be recommended for rehabilitation. It’s also important to be aware of unique injuries like “snowboarder’s ankle fracture,” which mimics a sprain but may require specific attention due to its nature. By understanding how to treat these injuries and seeking timely medical care, you can help ensure your child’s safety and enjoyment on the slopes, promoting a positive snowboarding experience for the whole family.

Understanding Traumatic, Non-Traumatic, and Catastrophic Risks

Traumatic injuries encompass a range of conditions, from head and neck trauma to concussions, chest trauma, abdominal trauma, and limb fractures. These injuries often occur due to falls, collisions, or accidents on the slopes and can have serious consequences if not addressed promptly and effectively.

While traumatic injuries tend to grab attention, non-traumatic injuries are equally significant and shouldn’t be overlooked. High-altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS), can occur due to the rapid ascent to high altitudes, leading to symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Additionally, exposure to UV radiation can result in sunburn and even solar retinopathy, while cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia and frostbite. Dehydration is another concern, particularly at high altitudes where fluid loss can occur more rapidly.

While catastrophic injuries are rare in skiing and snowboarding, they can have devastating consequences. Statistics show that there are approximately 0.78 deaths per 1,000,000 ski/snowboard days, with males aged teens to late 30s constituting the majority of cases. Despite their infrequency, these injuries underscore the importance of safety precautions and awareness on the slopes.

It’s essential to put these risks into perspective. Over the past decade, an average of 40.6 deaths per year have occurred in skiing and snowboarding accidents. While tragic, this pales in comparison to other causes of death, such as motor vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents, unintentional falls, and bicycle riding.

Injury Prevention 

Preventing ski and snowboard injuries starts with preparation and awareness. Firstly, ensure your body is ready for the demands of these activities by maintaining preseason fitness and incorporating specific exercises to strengthen key muscle groups and prevent common injuries like ACL tears. Warm up properly before hitting the slopes, and be mindful of fatigue throughout the day, taking breaks as needed to rest and refuel. Equally important is having the right equipment and maintaining it diligently—always wear a helmet, check your bindings regularly, and ensure your skis or snowboard are in good condition. Layer up to protect yourself from the elements, including UV radiation, and choose appropriate terrain for your skill level to minimize the risk of accidents. Education plays a vital role too—whether it’s learning proper technique through lessons or familiarizing yourself with the rules of the mountain, knowledge is key to staying safe on the slopes. By taking these precautions and staying vigilant, you can enjoy a thrilling winter sports season while minimizing the risk of injury. Remember, safety should always come first!

The Importance of Pre-season Training

Pre-season training is a critical component of injury prevention for both skiers and snowboarders, regardless of their skill or fitness level. By incorporating baseline function testing, such as the ACL hop test, Functional Movement Screen (FMS), and cardiorespiratory fitness assessments like the Alstrand treadmill or bleep tests, athletes can identify potential areas of weakness or imbalance before hitting the slopes. These assessments help tailor training programs to improve both upper and lower extremity strength and stability, promoting proper posture and body mechanics essential for navigating challenging terrain. Land-based skill training and core stability exercises further enhance muscle coordination and balance, reducing the risk of falls and injuries on the mountain. Ultimately, pre-season training lays the foundation for a safe and enjoyable winter sports season, allowing enthusiasts to tackle the slopes with confidence and resilience.

Pre-season training for skiers and snowboarders encompasses a comprehensive approach, including proper warm-up techniques to prepare the body for the rigors of winter sports. It’s essential to warm up every time you hit the slopes, as a dynamic warm-up is recommended before engaging in athletic activity. While stretching can be useful for loosening up muscles, it’s important to avoid static stretching immediately before a workout, as it can inhibit muscles. Instead, start with stretching to loosen up, focusing on hamstrings, calves, quads, hip flexors, shoulders, and back for 5-10 minutes. Then transition to dynamic exercises to further prepare the muscles and joints for activity, including squats, skipping, jogging, heel raises, and push-ups, for another 5-10 minutes. This combination of stretching and dynamic exercises ensures that your body is properly primed for the demands of skiing and snowboarding, reducing the risk of injury and enhancing performance on the slopes. Incorporating these warm-up techniques into your pre-season training regimen will help optimize your preparation and enjoyment of winter sports while minimizing the chance of injury.

When to See a Pediatric Orthopedist for Winter Sports Injuries

While some ski and snowboard injuries can be managed with rest and home care, there are instances where seeking specialized medical attention from a pediatric orthopedist is necessary. Knowing when to see a pediatric orthopedist can make all the difference in your child’s recovery. If your child experiences persistent or severe pain that doesn’t improve with rest, is unable to bear weight on an injured limb, exhibits visible deformity or swelling, or has limited range of motion or instability in a joint, it’s important to seek professional evaluation. Additionally, symptoms of a concussion, such as headache, dizziness, or confusion, warrant immediate medical attention. By recognizing these signs and symptoms and promptly seeking specialized care when needed, you can ensure the best possible outcome for your child’s injury and expedite their return to winter sports activities.

The Pediatric Orthopedic Center

If you suspect your child has a winter sports injury, contact The Pediatric Orthopedic Center at (973) 538-7700 or by filling out the request an appointment form. The Pediatric Orthopedic Center is the premier NJ hub for pediatric orthopedics, with three offices throughout northern NJ. Having been the leader in pediatric orthopedics in this area for over 25 years, we are the largest and most award-winning pediatric orthopedic practice in the tri-state area.

Schedule an Appointment with a Specialist Today

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Verify the date and time of your appointment. You may be required to complete new patient paperwork or provide personal information prior to being seen by your doctor. Please arrive approximately 30 minutes prior to your appointment time.

Confirm the address and location of your appointment. The Pediatric Orthopedic Center has four convenient locations in New Jersey. Confirm with the front desk staff the office location for your visit.

Be aware of travel issues and delays. Be mindful of any driving conditions, road construction detours and parking requirements to ensure you arrive for your appointment on time.

Urgent Care for Acute Injuries (Cedar Knolls)

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Walk-In Hours Update

*Urgent and Acute Injuries Only during Urgent Care/Walk-in Clinic hours. To find out if your child’s injury qualifies for a walk-in visit, click here. (Walk-in fees may apply.)


Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


Regular Hours: 8am-5pm
NO walk-in hours.


Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 10am-2pm

Sunday: Closed

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