Finger on the pulse: holidays can be bad for you

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I've just returned from skiing in France, where I visited a foreign medical centre for the third year running - and it wasn't to further my knowledge of orthopaedic problems. Sitting in a waiting area in the centre medicale, trying to remember if it was my husband's "droite genou" or gauche one that was hurting him, wasn't my idea of a holiday. This year, a ski collided with his knee, which instantly swelled to three times its normal size. We waited for two hours, when we were given an ice pack, bandage, pre-printed insurance note and yet another X-ray to add to our collection.

There is no doubt that skiing is a risky business, and maybe you get to a stage when you're just too old for it. Indeed, more knee injuries are sustained in the over-40 age group because they tend to go slower and then fall.

Every day, we found muscles that we didn't know existed. I asked some of the skiers in our group if they had prepared for their holiday by doing any exercise beforehand. Not surprisingly, only one person had, but then he ran marathons in his spare time.Yet, every year we think we can suddenly jump onto a pair of skis for five hours a day.

The previous year my husband broke a scaphoid bone, a small bone at the base of the thumb. This is a common ski injury and it doesn't always show up on X-ray immediately after the accident. When you fall - which most of us manage to do when skiing - you tend to put out your hand to save yourself, and it's this action that causes this little bone to break. If it's not put in plaster early on, the bone can crumble and cause long- term pain. If there's a suspicion that a fracture has occurred, the hand should be put into plaster and then X-rayed again a week later or scanned immediately, if the facilities are available. But you don't even need snow to get this sort of injury, as it's a common one caused by falls on dry ski slopes as well.

Two years ago, in Switzerland, I watched his face being sewn up in a patchwork fashion, after he collided with a snowboarder.

Finally, after last week's experience, I've decided that next year's holiday will be on a Greek island, with a spot of sailing and diving. It's just too risky to try the Alps again.

But sunshine doesn't come without its own risks. Apart from the UV damage, prickly heat and gastroenteritis that we've suffered on previous summer holidays, it seems new risks have surfaced concerning scuba diving.

This is an increasingly popular sport, with three million certified sport divers in the US and one million in Europe - and the numbers are growing. But a recent British Medical Journal reported that researchers in Germany have shown that some experienced divers have an increased chance of brain damage compared with non-divers.

Twenty-five per cent of sports divers may have a congenital abnormality in the way their blood is shunted through the heart, and this can make them more susceptible to problems while scuba diving. This study has highlighted the need for guidelines on who should be allowed to scuba dive and how they should undergo decompression.

Of course, no holiday is without some risk. The greatest risk for me is being a doctor, because if any one of my fellow holidaymakers finds out, I spend the next fortnight listening to their health problems. Maybe staying at home with a good book and a box of chocolates really is the best option.

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