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A safe downhill

Injuries on the slopes are on the rise, due also to climate change

Every winter 4 million Europeans wear overalls, snowshoes and skis to slalom on the slopes of the Alps. But thousands are returning home on crutches.


Slaloms can sometimes end up with an injury. Mostly it comes down to sprains and light bruises but falls that cause fractures and injuries are on the rise.


In Austria it has been estimated that, during the peak of winter season, about 300 skiers a day end their holidays on the snow in the emergency room. Every year the British health care system, public and private, take charge of the care and rehabilitation of 17,000 patients upon their return from skiing holidays in the Alps. In Italy, sports injuries are 300,000 a year and about one-third occur at the end of the track. The list of European casualties is long. And, according to some observers, the sneaky falls that often shatter our cruciate ligaments are in a way a brutally unexpected consequence of climate change.

With rising temperatures, tourists venture towards higher peaks, where the tracks are more difficult to navigate. Artificial snow, on the other hand, is harder than natural one, and it represents a further complication for older athletes and the less experienced. In other words, it snows less and less but accidents on the slopes are increasing. Skiing is not a dangerous sport, at least not more than others, but it is dangerous to ski without due caution.


According to the Italian Society of Orthopedics and Traumatology (Siot) "to avoid unpleasant mishaps that could eventually turn a holiday into a nightmare, it would be enough to dedicate a few hours to pre-skiing gymnastics before venturing on the slopes". According to Siot, last year, ski accidents have caused approximately 43% of distortions, 25% of strong bruises, 13% of fractures and 20% between dislocations and head injuries.

The most affected age group is that between 30 and 50 years of age, the majority (70%) are men, a category that seems to have a more defiant attitude towards the slopes. All eyes are of course on the cruciate, because the ligaments in the knee, when subjected to abrupt efforts, may break quite easily. For snowboarders extra care must be devoted to the protection of shoulders, wrists and arms. The use of helmets and other protective garments are recommended for everyone, even for experienced skiers.