When it comes to skiing or snowboarding, falling is inevitable – even for the pros. It isn’t something you can control and can sometimes come out of nowhere. Safety gear and common sense can go a long way to preventing or minimizing injury, but accidents are always going to happen at some stage.
While the best way to fall is to not fall at all, you can practice a few preventative measures to potentially save yourself from a major injury:
Don’t try to catch yourself with your arms
If you’re falling or feel like you’re going to fall, fight the temptation to put your hands out. Broken wrists, torn ligaments in your hands, and broken arms are all likely possibilities if you try to use your hands and arms as shock absorbers.
If possible use your hips or shoulders to absorb and disperse the blow of a fall. If you are falling forward, make contact with your forearms instead of your hands to help dissipate the energy. Make sure to do this will making a fist to avoid serious injuries to your fingers and wrists.
Don’t panic when sliding
For many beginner skiers and snowboarders, falling often leads to sliding. This is because beginners are typically not comfortable enough with their board or skis to right themselves after they fall. If you find yourself sliding down the hill, don’t panic and dig in the edge of your ski or snowboard to stop yourself. The sudden catch could torque your knee and cause an injury, or your legs may get twisted in an unnatural way as your lower body suddenly stops and your upper body continues moving.
As long as you’re not sliding towards dangerous terrain, lift your board or skis up to avoid catching an edge and wait until you naturally stop to try and right yourself.
Keep your body relaxed
It probably seems crazy to say “stay relaxed” when falling, but relaxing your muscles is a great way to minimalize damage to your body from falling. While you won’t always have time to control your reaction while falling, its important to avoid tensing up your body when you feel yourself losing control. Your body can absorb shock better when relaxed, so try to stay loose until you have a chance to regain control.
Protect your head
Protecting your head and neck should be your number one priority when skiing or snowboarding. Wearing a helmet is the easiest way to protect your head, and doesn’t require extra thought while falling! If you are falling backward, there is a chance that your head will hit the ground. To prevent a head or neck injury, spread the impact of your fall by falling onto your butt and then your back – this will keep the impact from going up your back and causing your head to whip against the ground.
So how should you fall?
The best way to not injure yourself is to not fall in the first place. This means practicing safe sports etiquette, like warming up properly and riding within your comfort level. However, falling is a part of the process of getting better, so here are some helpful tips:
The best way to fall is to land on your butt or shoulder. It’s much better to land on your butt and roll down your back than to whack your head on the ground. If you're falling forward, make sure to land on your shoulder or forearms than on outstretched hands.
Aim for a pile of fresh snow. This may be obvious, but falling on fresh powder is going to be better than falling on ice or hard-packed snow.
When you feel yourself losing balance, crouch down. Being closer to the ground reduces the distance you’ll travel when falling, making the impact less eventful.
If you’re new to the sport, don’t be afraid to practice falling safely. Falling is inevitable, even as you get better, and it could make a huge difference as your skills progress. If you do get hurt on the slopes, our team is here to help you get off the sidelines and back out there. Give us a call at 703.444.5000 to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians here at Arthritis & Sports, or request an appointment online by clicking here. To stay up-to-date on the latest news and tips from us, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for our monthly newsletter!