Common Skiing Injuries

With fall fast approaching, you may be planning out your next great ski vacation. In addition to finding the right hotel and the perfect slopes to hit, being prepared (and proactive) about preventing skiing injuries and staying safe is always a smart thing to do.

Most ski injuries result from an unexpected fall and affect some sore of large joint in the body be in the knee, shoulder, or hands, although there are opportunities for head trauma to insert itself, especially when taking nasty spills. Don’t miss these common ski injuries:

Ligament Tear or Rupture

Catching and twisting your knee past it’s normal range of motion can quickly result in a rupturing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Commonly misconceived as a knee location at the time of injury, an associated popping sound and sudden weakness in the knee are key markers of an ACL rupture. Swelling, pain, tenderness, and the inability to bear weight make ACL ruptures extremely dangerous – immediate medical attention is a must as in severe cases, surgical intervention is required to correct the issue.

Another key ligament, the medial collateral ligament (MCL) may similarly tear but usually when the knee is bent and some impact is applied – like falling over while skiing downhill in a bent position and not adjusting the body prior to impact with the ground. The inside of the knee joint will be the most painful and it may be hard to turn the knee inward at all. Swelling, tenderness, bruising, and potential discomfort bearing weight will accompany this type of injury, which should also be evaluated by a doctor right away.

The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of your thumb may strain or tear, especially when falling onto a fully outstretched hand – this acute injury is colloquially referred to as “skier’s thumb.” This condition may also result from falling with your ski poles in your hand; impact with the ground can cause the ski pole to apply too much force to the joint around the thumb and thus the connecting ligaments.


Falling and landing on directly on the shoulder joint, or landing on the hand or arm in such a way as the impact is direct up the arm into the shoulder, can result in a painful dislocation of the upper arm bone out of the shoulder blade socket. In addition to an obvious loosening or detached feeling, you may experience swelling, mild to severe pain, and an inability to move the joint. Typically a medical professional will promptly want to restabilize the shoulder joint by moving the bone back in place and splinting it (or putting the arm in a sling).


While wearing a helmet during skiing is required, the chance for minor head trauma may still exist. A bad fall with impact of the skull to the ground, or even fall backwards and the head snapping up and back down to smack the ground, can leave bruising on the brain, also known as a concussion. With a concussion, you may not lose consciousness at all, but symptoms including headache, dizziness, disorientation, vomiting, double or blurred vision, light sensitivity, difficulty balancing, and coordination trouble may indicate a problem.

Seeking immediate medical attention is a must. Some falls may also cause blood vessels to burst, leading to a buildup of a pool of blood outside the brain tissue but under the skull, these conditions include epidural and subdural hematomas. Someone with these types of condition may exhibit no symptoms at first but slurred speech, headaches, confusion, and vomiting are key signs of danger that requires immediate medical attention. Sometimes the buildup of blood is so quick, an injured person can go into a coma or even die if not treated.

The key theme to any ski injury is to seek medical treatment right away – whether it’s to fix a dislocated shoulder, diagnose a ligament tear, or x-ray for potential head trauma. Preventing skiing injuries can be aided by the right gear, i.e. ski boots, helmets, and knee braces – see more info. With the right equipment you’ll be prepared to fearlessly hit the slopes come winter.


Image courtesy of [Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee] at

Related Posts

Leave a Comment