Are you an avid traveler, especially during wintertime? What are the things you never forget to pack? Passport, wallet, phone, underwear? What about international medical coverage? If you’re shaking your head now, thinking you’re safe wherever you go because you take good care of yourself, think again. Medical insurance is a very important issue for those who travel abroad, because, honestly – you’d rather be safe than sorry.
Even if you’re usually super cautious, a ski trip is likely to cause some incidents – no matter how minor. Actually, you don’t even have to do anything adventurous for something to go wrong. Sometimes, the circumstances are just not working in your favor, and you really don’t want to find yourself in debt because you oversaw the bad things that might happen. To convince you, here are some common injuries that can happen no matter how skilled you are on the snow.
These are more often in skiers than snowboarders because they tend to twist and turn their knees a lot. These injuries can be to the ligaments that stabilize the knee: they most often happen with sudden twisting while the feet are planted. It is possible that a complete ligament tear happens, and in that case, it will require reconstruction. Other knee injuries include injuries to the meniscus – the cartilage in the knee that allows smooth motion. A tear is also possible, and when it’s large, it may require surgery. If it’s not, the treatment is usually conservative.
Injuries to the Head, Neck, and Shoulder
These usually happen during falls. Now, even if you’re experienced, you are not 100% safe from a fall. It depends on the slopes and the terrain as well. The best bet would be to only use beginner’s slopes, but of course, we can’t expect that from everyone. For example, if you’d like to enjoy the snow slopes of Japan, there are various resorts that offer proportions of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs. You can also find resorts that are culturally significant and/or offer warm water spas, where you can rest in between skiing and other winter activities. However, don’t take these falling injuries lightly. Concussions, neck strains and fractured clavicles are not something you want to experience while on a vacation.
Be careful with the hands! They are pretty much at risk if you fall while skiing and snowboarding. One of the most common injuries is the skier’s thumb, an acute injury that happens if you fall with your hand still in the ski pole strap. Falling this way, your thumb can get caught and pulled away from the hand, which can result in a ligament tear. You don’t want this to happen, as it can lead to difficulties with grasping, and even a surgery might be required. Furthermore, it’s possible to sprain a wrist, as well as fracture a finger. Not fancy!
While out on the slopes, whatever you do, it will require a lot of twisting and maneuvering on surfaces that are quite slippery, so what do we have there? A possible back injury, especially if you have a poor posture or muscle imbalance. The most common ones are the pain in the lower back, and those who have suffered it, know how unbearable it can get and how much it can worsen the quality of life. These can result from falls, overuse, or even from getting up awkwardly after a fall, so be careful. Another one is a herniated disk, which can happen after a fall. Often times it will have conservative treatment, but sometimes it may require a surgery. Skiing in the beautiful Alps is heaps better than staying in expecting to go home have a surgery, so do your best to stay where you are and enjoy the slopes and summits in the distance.
How to Prevent Injuries?
Every athlete will tell you that the best way to prevent skiing or snowboarding injuries is to have a proper conditioning program before you hit the slopes, and to never, ever, skip warm up, as cold muscles will be at more risk of being injured. If you’re a beginner, you need to take lessons from an instructor (and a qualified one at that!) – you will learn how to fall safely and reduce the injury risk.
You must also make sure to always wear a helmet to protect your head and to have a good equipment overall. Speaking of the equipment, we must also advise that you wear appropriate clothing – meaning layers, layers, layers, as frostbite and hypothermia are not that rare when out in the cold. Careful with the exposed skin as well! We guess you’d like to go home with as many fingers, toes and noses as you arrived with.
In many cases, injuries happen due to fatigue after a long day outside, or poor judgment. Most of the injuries though can be prevented just by using your common sense. For example, stay hydrated throughout the day and rest every couple of hours. Know how to use the lifts safely. Always stay in control, and when stopping, do so in a safe place – for yourself and the others. Observe signs and warnings you might encounter on the way, and keep off closed trails – they’re closed for a reason!
You can be in the very best of health, but these injuries happen. That is also what the athletes will tell you – no matter how prepared you are, sometimes there’s just no big meaningful reason why you were injured on a vacation. It can happen. It doesn’t mean it necessarily will, but you do need to come prepared. Health costs, especially if traveling internationally, can go sky high, and with a good medical coverage, you will either pay the fraction of the cost and get reimbursed when you get back home, or your insurance will cover everything on the spot.
If it’s a burden to get it, because, yeah, it takes ten minutes to fill the forms, just think of a burden of paying thousands of dollars for something you could have prevented. See? So, take care, and have fun!