Skiing and Snowboarding: How To Prevent Foot and Ankle Injuries

8 Jan

There’s been no shortage of snow in the U.S. this year, and times are good for those who love to strap boards and skis on their feet. Although most ski and snowboard injuries involve the knees or thumbs, ankles and feet see plenty of injuries as well. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to minimize your risk of injury.

snowboarding ankle and foot injuries

Ankle Sprains

The most common ski and snowboard injuries to ankles are sprains. These most often occur when you land on the outside of your foot and your foot twists too far inward. The capsula, ligaments, and nerve fibers stretch too far, or the cartilage becomes over compressed. Tissue is either torn or stretched, and bleeding and swelling occur inside the ankle, accompanied by bruising and pain.

After a sprain, it’s wise to wear an ankle brace inside your boot to avoid spraining the ankle again.

Read about the symptoms and treatment of ankle sprains

Ankle or Foot Fractures

Fractures occur when too much stress is placed on a bone. Landing incorrectly after a jump, falling, or colliding with another skier are the most common ways a foot or ankle becomes fractured. Immediate attention is needed even for a minor fracture, as a crack in a bone left untreated will continue to be painful in the short term and will become arthritic in the long term.

Ankles should be conditioned before and after a day on the slopes with simple stretching and strength-building exercises, which you can see here. And never ski if you’ve injured your ankle in any way – it’s already in a weakened state and additional stress may result in a more severe ankle injury or a problem further up your leg.

Read about the symptoms and treatment of ankle fractures and toe and foot fractures

Skier’s Toe

You take off your ski boots and you see that the nail on your big toe is completely black. A scary site. Fortunately, it’s not too serious if you get it cared for right away. In medical terms, Skier’s Toe is a subungual hematoma, a common injury for runners as well. When ski boots are too tight or too loose, the big toe takes a lot of punishment and the nail begins to separate from the nail bed. Bleeding occurs under the nail and the result is discoloration and soreness. If you see a podiatrist right away, they can resolve your pain quickly by burning a tiny hole in the nail and allowing the trapped blood to drain. But if you wait too long for treatment, the condition might get worse.

To avoid Skier’s Toe, trim your toenails, make sure your boots fit correctly, and that your socks don’t bunch up. And wear your own boots, not someone else’s.

Snowboarder’s Fracture

ankle structureThe Talus is a small bone that sits between the heel bone and the two bones of the lower leg. When your leading foot in a snowboard rotates too far, a fracture often occurs in the Talus.

Snow-Boarder’s Fracture isn’t always apparent on an X-ray and can sometimes be mistakenly diagnosed as a sprain. If untreated, it will continue to be painful and become arthritic down the line. When it is caught, treatment is pretty simple, with the insertion of a screw to stabilize the joint.

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With any of these injuries, the soft tissue will heal naturally without much intervention on your part. However, bones, muscle, and nerve fiber do not return to their pre-injury condition without help – they must be trained via physical therapy to restore their natural function.

The simplest way to avoid any foot or ankle injuries while skiing or snowboarding is to make sure your boots fit properly and your bindings are adjusted correctly, because stability inside the boot is imperative. A professional boot fitter will make sure that your foot is centered and supported correctly and that it’s not rubbing or banging against any part of your foot or shin. They may decide to insert padding in the boot or set you up with a custom orthotic, especially if you’ve had previous injuries.  Also have your bindings adjusted by a professional who will use your age, ability, length of boot, weight, and height to adjust the tension according to the formula suggested by the manufacturer.

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