Channel 4 were in hot water this month, following the news that four celebrities have been forced to quit their winter sport reality show The Jump, due to injuries inflicted during training. Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle has undergone serious surgery on her neck, while others have suffered fractures and muscle injuries, and following this spate of injuries many are calling for a review into safety procedures on the reality show. With ski season upon us it seems a good time to reflect on the safety of winter sports, to ensure you and your family remain safe if planning a trip to the slopes.
The importance of insurance
Although getting insurance in place may not be top of your list when off on holiday it is extremely important, and especially when taking part in extreme winter sports. You need to ensure your holiday insurance covers you for extreme sporting injuries, will cover all treatment in a hospital abroad as well as emergency care. If you are self-employed it is worth checking your insurance covers loss of earnings - as in the event you are seriously injured you could need to take a lot of time off to recover.
The effects of winter sport accidents can be long lasting; Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher, who suffered Traumatic Brain Injury two years ago as a result of a skiing accident, has still not recovered. It is estimated that head injuries account for around 10 - 20% of all snow sport injuries.
Minor bumps and bashes can seem like a natural part of skiing, but even something that seems like a minor head injury can cause long lasting effects which often do not present themselves at the time of the accident. More serious brain injuries can result in the individual slipping into a coma and even permanent disability. After being in a coma, there are a number of possible outcomes, with some people showing distinct but limited signs of awareness and others showing no conscious awareness of their surroundings. Either way, it is clear that head related trauma is definitely to be avoided at all costs and wearing a helmet can dramatically reduce the chance of this occurring.
Tips for staying safe on the slopes
Helmets: as discussed the dangers of head injuries are extensive and these can be greatly reduced by wearing a helmet on the slopes. Having said this, the wearing of protective headgear should not be seen as providing complete protection and lure the wearer into a false sense of security. It is vital to exercise common sense, be vigilant and follow basic safety guidelines at all times.
Speed: the speed of not only yourself but also others flying down mountains, especially during peak times, can be the root cause of many injuries. Ensure you travel at a safe speed, not only for your own safety but for those around you as well.
Know your resort: get a resort map which will contain vital information such as medical assistance locations. Along with this each ski lift will have its own notice board that will list closed slopes and also the times in which the last lift will run, this is key to plan your route round the mountain and making it back to the resort before dark which can come around very quick.
Going off-piste: choosing to venture away from the closely maintained slopes with guides and instructors and off into woods or unchartered ground is dangerous. Avalanches are more common, and as the surface of the ground is no longer guaranteed to be smooth, accidents may be more likely to occur (with help further away once they do).
Experience: make sure you are comfortable with the level of those around you - starting on a black slope as a novice is not a good idea and can not only put your life in danger but those around you as well. Take lessons before you set out by yourself and make sure you are using good quality equipment that includes knee and wrist guards as these are the most common part of the body to instinctively put forward when falling.
If you do have an accident when skiing make sure you get the accident logged in an official capacity and ensure you or those with you get the details of the person who caused the accident as well as anyone who witnessed what happened. Most ski passes are purchased with insurance which might meet any claim you may wish to make for injury or expenses.
Overall, whilst extreme winter sports are adrenaline-filled fun, accidents are commonplace. Broken bones or torn ligaments could affect you long after returning home, while serious brain injuries can be life-threatening. Many occurrences of traumatic brain injury happen through freak accidents, but there are ways in which you can minimise risk and reduce the likelihood of these occurring.
Have you ever had an injury whilst skiing or snowboarding? How do you think we can reduce the number of accidents?
About the author
Emma Melia is a Solicitor and lead litigator within Spencers Solicitors' catastrophic injury team. Emma has over 17 years' experience helping people who have suffered life changing injuries as a result of sporting accidents.
Emma's last blog was Safer Riding - Keeping you and your horse safe on the roads.