A-Z of Skiing: I is for injury

RECENT INNOVATIONS in skiing have come, it seems, at a cost: high- speed lifts, carving skis and plastic boots have all been blamed for causing injuries.

Although statistics show no recent overall increase in ski injuries, the incidence of serious knee damage has tripled in the past three decades, according to a report early this year in The Wall Street Journal. The direct cause of this increase is the stiffer, plastic boot. In earlier, softer days, ankles were more likely to break; now the impact is transferred up to the knee, a weaker and more complex joint that is much harder to repair. As for the indirect causes, carving skis have been implicated, along with snow-grooming improvements, for inspiring over-confidence in skiers; so have faster chair-lifts, because by increasing the number of runs per day they can exacerbate the problem of fatigue, a factor in many accidents.

The trend towards snowboarding has made wrist injuries more frequent; and the use of soft boots by boarders is, paradoxically, enabling ankle injuries to make a bit of a comeback. But except during their first week, snowboarders are no more likely to be injured than skiers.

Lest you, a cautious and considerate person, should feel that all this pathology has no relevance to your own experience (which, statistically, it probably doesn't, since only 0.3 per cent of skiers and snowboarders sustain an injury that requires medical attention), bear this in mind. "Skier's thumb is a potentially serious injury", says the medical journal Pulse, explaining that "forced abduction of the thumb metacarpo-phalangeal joint occurs due to pressure from the ski pole held in the hand, damaging the ulnar collateral ligament." Be careful out there: four per cent of skiing injuries are to the thumb.