Head injuries account for 10-20% of injuries sustained on the slopes. Fortunately about 90% are only minor injuries, but some serious head injuries can be fatal or result in permanent brain or spinal damage.
Minor Head Injuries
Minor injuries such as cuts, bruises, abrasions and bumps don't cause any long lasting problems and can be easily dealt with. Minor head injuries sustained during skiing are usually caused by falling onto hard snow or ice, or from landing badly from a jump. Beginners are more likely to suffer minor head injuries because they lose their balance more often than experienced skiers and end up falling because they cannot react quickly enough to correct their mistake.
Symptoms of Head Injuries
Minor head injuries may cause mild swelling, bumps, headaches or lacerations. Abrasions, which are usually caused by bare skin sliding against the snow, can initially be quite painful.
Treatment for Head Injuries
Cuts may bleed quite profusely at first, but applying pressure will stop the bleeding. If they are quite deep, you may require stitches. Abrasions should be cleaned but not bandaged, because covering them up may hamper the healing process. You will perhaps be prescribed a course of antibiotics to prevent infection. Swollen lumps and bumps can be reduced with an icepack.
Serious head Injuries
Very serious head wounds can result in spinal injuries, breathing problems, a fractured skull or bleeding in and around the brain and can sometimes be fatal. Most serious head injuries on the slopes are caused by collisions with other skiers or static objects such as rocks, pylons or trees. Skiers can reach speeds of 40mph even on fairly moderate slopes, so the force of the impact will be high. Colliding with static objects tends to cause more damage than colliding with other skiers and most fatal head wounds sustained during skiing are caused by colliding with trees.
If you experience any of the following symptoms after suffering a head injury, you should seek immediate medical attention:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Drowsiness or dizziness
- Blood or clear fluid coming out of the ears or nose
- Blurred vision
Serious head injuries can cause complications such as respiratory depression, seizures and spinal damage.
The casualty should be given urgent medical attention. Checking their airway, breathing and circulation (ABC) is crucial and may save their life. Serious head injuries may result in the casualty having to be put on a respirator to help them to breathe. Surgery may also be necessary to stop bleeding or reduce swelling in the brain, remove blood clots or repair damaged tissue.
Preventing Head Injuries on the Slopes
The most important thing you can do is wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet will cushion your head from the impact of falls and collisions and may save your life. Also, ski sensibly. Don't whiz down slopes that are far too advanced for you at speeds that are beyond your ability to control. If you are on uneven terrain, slow down, especially if there are lots of trees or other skiers in your path.
- Anterior cruciate ligament tear
- Broken collarbone
- Dislocated shoulder
- Head injuries
- Medial collateral ligament sprain
- Meniscus tear
- Skier thumb
- Spinal damage
- Torn rotator cuff muscles