OHSU

Skiing and Snowboarding

Skiing and snowboarding are attracting more people each year, but as the popularity of these sports increase, so do the number of accidents.

  • The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that there are over 100,000 skiing and snowboarding injuries treated in the nation's emergency rooms per year.
  • The National Ski Areas Association reports during the 2004-2005 season, 30 people died from skiing and 15 from snowboarding. Of those injured on the slopes, 45 sustained life-threatening injuries, including serious head trauma and spinal injuries. This figure included 21 snowboarders and 24 skiers.
  •  A study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that each year 11 skiing and snowboarding-related deaths could be prevented and 7,700 head injuries – including 2,600 head injuries to children – could be prevented or reduced in severity if skiing or snowboarding helmets are worn.
  • The most common skiing-related injuries are knee and ankle sprains and fractures. The most common snowboarding injuries are to the wrist, shoulder and head.
  • Many skiing and snowboarding incidents occur due to loss of control. Skiers and snowboarders are usually moving too fast or on a slope that is beyond their ability. Most deaths and injuries occur to skiers and snowboarders with high-risk behavior.

Safety Tips

Before your child hits the slopes:

  • Make sure your child is in good physical condition. Skiing and snowboarding are strenuous sports that put heavy demands on muscles, tendons and ligaments in many parts of the body..
  • Have your child take skiing or snowboarding lessons from a professional instructor.
  • Make sure your child knows how to handle a fall. Skiing and snowboarding injuries commonly occur when you try to avoid a fall or brace yourself against a fall.
  • Review the safety tips of skiing and snowboarding with your child.

Equipment

  • Make sure the ski or snowboarding equipment your child uses is in good condition and fitted for his or her weight, size and skill.
  • Purchase a helmet specially designed for skiing and snowboarding and make sure your child wears it to prevent head injuries. These special helmets consist of three layers and are cut higher in the back than in the front to allow for the tuck position in racing. The outer shell varies in different models, but protects against objects penetrating the shell. The middle layer consists of a material called polystyrene, which absorbs shock during a fall. The inner layer is designed to provide warmth so no other headgear is required. A head gaiter made of polypropylene or silk can be worn for extra warmth.
  • Do not substitute helmets that were designed for another sport. Bike helmets do not provide enough protection for skiing. Other helmets are too heavy and bulky and may cause whiplash injuries.
  • Select a helmet according to the level of ability and speed your child skis. Never purchase a helmet that is too large for your child's head. If you rent a helmet, make sure it fits properly, with very minimal movement when worn.
  • Always replace the helmet if it has sustained a significant blow.
  • Wrist guards and knee pads should be worn for snowboarding.
  • Sunglasses and goggles will protect your child's eyes and improve vision on the slopes.
  • Have your child use sunscreen and lip balm to prevent sunburn, even on cloudy days.

Clothing

  •  What your child wears on the slope can help prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Make sure your child dresses to stay warm and dry. Multiple light layers are best. Look for outerwear that is water- and wind-resistant. Be sure to include:
    • Thermal underwear
    • Ski pants – no jeans
    • Turtleneck
    • Neck gaiter
    • Sweater
    • Vest
    • Socks or sock liners
    • Jacket
    • Hat or headband (60 percent of the body's heat is lost through the head)
    • Gloves

On the Slopes

  • Supervise your child while they ski and snowboard.
  • Never let your child ski or snowboard alone.
  • Be aware of the weather and snow conditions before starting out. Make adjustments for the conditions as they change.
  • Have your child study a map of the ski area and be familiar with the terrain and any obstacles.
  • Instruct your child to ski and snowboard only in areas matching their ability. Skiers and snowboarders get hurt when they are going too fast and lose control.
  • Begin the day with stretching and a few runs down easy slopes to get "warmed up."
  • Remember to tell your child to ski/snowboard within their limits.
  • Ensure child drinks plenty of fluids and eats nutritious food throughout the day.
  • Encourage your child to take plenty of rest breaks and to stop when they get tired.

Teach your child the Responsibility Code from the National Ski Patrol:

  • Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
  • People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
  • You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
  • Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
  • Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
  • Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
  • Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.

For more information:

503 418-5666
safety@ohsu.edu

Location:

Doernbecher Children's Hospital Lobby
700 SW Campus Drive Portland, OR 97239

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