As winter approaches, many of us will be getting ready to pack our bags, check our gear and book our flights to somewhere high up in the mountains where there is loads of the white stuff.
It goes without saying that extreme sports have their risks, but that’s where the adrenaline rush comes from in being able to push yourself to the limit.
If injuries do happen it’s important to understand how to manage them effectively so that you can be back on the slopes as fast as possible whilst also minimising the risk of seeing the same injury again in the future.
Injuries themselves vary in their severity, as do the treatment options available, so if you are ever unsure then you should seek medical advice.
Prevention is better than cure
It may sound obvious but the best way to treat an injury is to stop it from happening in the first place. Obviously some things are unavoidable and injuries happen, that’s just what happens when you get hooked on extreme sports. One of the best ways to ensure an injury doesn’t happen is by getting kitted out with the right gear.
Helmets: The risk of head injuries from falling is extremely high and consequences can be quite catastrophic, so wearing a helmet can reduce this risk. There have been some high profile incidents in recent years where people have still suffered serious injuries whilst wearing a helmet, but how severe would they have been had they not been wearing one in the first place?
Wrist Guards: Wrist injuries are common as when you hit the deck you instinctively put out your arms to break your fall. If it’s a bad fall then you could suffer a broken wrist or the force may travel further up the arm, breaking your arm, dislocating your elbow or even resulting in a shoulder injury. Wrist guards offer a degree of protection when falling over, something beginners will do a lot of.
Knee Bracing: This is becoming more mainstream and being used both as an injury prevention measure as well as post injury. In extreme sports, knee bracing is manufactured from things like carbon fibre, i.e. something lightweight so as to not hinder movement but super strong to protect you in the event of a fall.
Post injury management
If you are unlucky enough to suffer an injury then there a number of options available to you.
Rest: It may sound obvious but the body needs time to heal and recover. Just take it easy following an injury and don’t push yourself (otherwise you could end up making it worse).
Physiotherapy: Following an injury physiotherapy may be used as part of your overall rehabilitation programme (which may also include surgery, rest, bracing). Physiotherapy is designed to get you moving again and building strength in the affected joint / region / muscle. These exercises can not only get you back to full fitness but also minimise the risk of it happening again in the future.
Surgery: Depending on the severity of the injury you may need surgery to correct it i.e. torn ligament, torn muscle, fractured bone. The nature of the injury will determine the type of surgery required from pinning your fractured bone back together to taking a graft from your hamstring to create a new anterior cruciate ligament in your knee.
Bracing: It’s already been mentioned but post injury/surgery there are loads of options. Following broken bones bracing is an alternative to casting (and cheaper for hospitals). This is effectively a rigid brace (walker boot or wrist splint) that protects the affected area but more importantly can be removed quickly and easily to check the healing progress (rather than cutting the cast off and then putting a new one on). There are also soft supports to offer a degree of protection during rehabilitation, whether that is compression, stability or both and these are available for almost every area of the body (wrist, knee and ankle).
Following any injury, it is important to follow the RICE principles of rest, ice, compression and elevation. If there are no signs of improvement after a few days, or you know instantly that it’s a serious injury (broken bones are normally pretty obvious) then you should seek medical attention.