by Leon Mao, Physiotherapist at Hawthorn Physiotherapy Clinic.

As the winter season looms, Victorians are bracing for the cold and rainfall. But unlike the last two lockdown-riddled years, the snowfields are now ready for action. Whether you’re a skier or snowboarder, the excitement is probably uncontainable.

However, to fully enjoy the icy cold experience, you need to be healthy and prepared. The last thing you want is to be sidelined on a first aid snowmobile. It’s a matter of ‘be there, or be squared.’ Whatever that means.

Unfortunately, we see this a lot at Hawthorn Physiotherapy Clinic. Skiers and snowboarders who miss the whole season (and sometimes even the next) because of the injuries sustained. While not completely avoidable, there are definitely ways to prepare yourself to minimise the chances of these scenarios.

This article will go through the common alpine injuries and what you can do about them today!

The Big 5 Injuries for Skiers and Snowboarding

Being on the slopes can be unpredictable. From slippery patches to moving obstacles, it can take a toll on the body. Unfortunately, the hit of adrenaline from snowsports is also matched by the hazardous nature of the snowfields.

As physiotherapists who regularly treat post-surgery patients and sports injuries, we see how hazardous the slopes can be. Below is a list of snow-related injuries we commonly see in the clinic.

  1. Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tears

ACL tears are, by far, one of the most common and significant injuries in the snowfields. In fact, it may even be more common compared to a sport like soccer or football [1]. Skiers are more likely to experience ACL injuries than snowboarders due to the positioning of the legs. Up to 33% of skiing injuries are due to ACL tears [1].

How Do ACL Tears Occur?

Most ACL tears happen because of non-contact injuries, particularly in three distinct patterns. These include [1]:

A Life-Changing Injury

While not life-threatening, ACL tears can be life-changing. After an ACL injury, pre-habilitation, surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation journey may be required. This whole process isn’t just costly but can potentially take you out of snowsports for two seasons (or even more!).

  1. Other Knee Injuries

Other knee injuries, such as MCL/LCL sprains and fractures to the tibia (shin bone), are also injuries commonly sustained by skiers.

Knee Sprains

In fact, several studies have suggested that besides ACL tears, other types of knee sprains are the second most common type of skiing injury. The side-to-side action and impact on the knee can stress these important ligaments around the joint.


Fractures to the tibia and fibula (the shin bones) below or around the knee are typical skiing injuries to the leg. They usually occur during trauma, falls and failure of the ski-boot bindings to release when falling. However, the rate of these injuries has dropped because of the higher standards of ski equipment.

  1. Wrist Injuries

Wrist injuries are the number one reason why snowboarders seek medical treatment. Research has shown that between 20–40% of injuries in children to adult snowboarders are located around the wrist [2]. Although still seen in skiers, wrist injuries are comparatively less common.

Most wrist injuries are sustained as the hand lands and impacts the ground. Understandably this is much less common in skiers with ski poles to help balance themselves on the snow fields. Examples of typical wrist injuries in the snow include contusions, ligament injuries (sprains) and fractures.

  1. Skier’s Thumb

The skier’s thumb is a casual way of describing an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb’s metacarpophalangeal joint — handful, isn’t it? This injury is located along the inner part of the thumb near the webbing. Types of injuries seen with the skier’s thumb include avulsion fractures (where the bone that the ligament connects to becomes loose) and sprains (tears to the ligament).

Behind knee injuries, the skier’s thumb is the 3rd most common injury while skiing. [1]. A common way of developing a skier’s thumb is falling on an outstretched hand while the thumb is caught on the ski pole. As a result, the thumb is over-abducted or stretched outwards. This type of injury is much less frequent in snowboarders, suggesting that ski poles may be a contributing factor.

  1. Contusions (Corkies)

Contusions or ‘corkies’ are regularly seen in contact and extreme sports. Direct blows to the body cause damage to the skin and the tissue beneath it. Injury to the vessels causes the blood to leak out and pool in the area, which leads to significant bruising. Contusions to the leg, head, back and arms can develop from falling, landing and crashing into the snow.

How to Keep Yourself On the Snowfields?

To take advantage of Victoria’s snowfields, it’s essential to stay healthy enough and prevent your injuries in the first place. Like any other sport or recreational activity, preparation is critical for building a strong and safe base to keep yourself on the snow. Start your preparation with our checklist below.

  1. Equipment

Snowsports’ fast-paced and slippery nature generally calls for safe and sturdy equipment. Especially if you’re a beginner or recreational skier/snowboarder, it’s essential to have your skis or snowboard, boots, helmet, bindings and poles fitted by a professional. They may also provide you with practical tips about how to keep safe on the snow fields.

Other pieces of equipment or safety wear to consider include:

  1. Getting Lessons

Those new to the snowfield should always take lessons from a trained ski instructor. They will be able to teach you valuable advice about how to trek up and down the slopes safely. Research has shown that beginners are at a higher risk of developing significant injuries, such as leg and wrist fractures [1][2]. There’s never any harm in improving your skills on the snowboard or skis.

  1. Addressing Any Current Niggles, Fitness Issues or Injuries

Like any extreme sport, there is always an element of danger associated with skiing and snowboarding. The slippery slopes. Swerving around deviant skiers and obstacles. Even getting off the chair lift can be challenging for beginners. There are a lot of elements to consider.

Don’t let your physical conditioning add to your list of cautions. There is a risk of hurting yourself more and a chance of sustaining newer injuries. Part of this is also the confidence in snowboarding and/or skiing, knowing that your body is not in peak condition. Being hesitant is not ideal — especially when going downhill at supersonic speed.

It’s vital to get any niggles and injuries assessed by a physiotherapist. They will be able to help identify why you’re sore and provide a treatment plan and strategies for managing these problems on the snowfields.

  1. A Good Recovery

Recovery is essential for preparing your body and mind for consecutive days on the slope. Examples of recovery practice you might consider implementing includes:

  1. Warm Up Exercises

Warm-up exercises are an under-performed part of injury prevention on the slopes. With all the excitement building up — it’s easy to overlook and get straight into skiing. However, there are so many benefits of performing just a few minutes of warm-up exercises that it’s hard not to justify.

To list a few benefits:

Why are these benefits so important? Well — they help reduce the risk of injury. Think of these exercises like a pit stop for a Formula One Car. Regular maintenance is performed for safety and performance measures. Sacrificing some time for exercise is a trade-off worthy of preventing injuries and avoiding a trip to the hospital.

Speak to a physiotherapist about what warm-up exercises might be appropriate for you.

We’re Here to Support You

Hawthorn Physiotherapy Clinic is here to support you through your upcoming snow season. We have a range of treatment methods to help with preventing injury and keep you on the snowfields.

Speak to our physiotherapist about helping you with your conditioning, developing specific strategies, creating a preventative exercise program, or even something else.

For more information, please do not hesitate to call us on 9819 2827 or you can book online to see a HPC physiotherapist at


  1. Davey, A., Endres, N. K., Johnson, R. J., & Shealy, J. E. (2019). Alpine skiing injuries. Sports Health11(1), 18–26.
  2. Kim, S., Endres, N. K., Johnson, R. J., Ettlinger, C. F., & Shealy, J. E. (2012). Snowboarding injuries: trends over time and comparisons with alpine skiing injuries. The American journal of sports medicine40(4), 770–776.


  1. Davey, A., Endres, N. K., Johnson, R. J., & Shealy, J. E. (2019). Alpine skiing injuries. Sports health11(1), 18–26.
  2. Kim, S., Endres, N. K., Johnson, R. J., Ettlinger, C. F., & Shealy, J. E. (2012). Snowboarding injuries: trends over time and comparisons with alpine skiing injuries. The American journal of sports medicine40(4), 770–776.