Alpine Skiing

First aid for acute alpine injuries

Serious injuries are rare in alpine skiing, but can happen. Swift and proper treatment of acute injuries increase the likelihood of a quick recovery.

Head injury

When in doubt, call the emergency number immediately.

A head injury must always be taken seriously. When an athlete sustains a head injury, it is important to prioritise first aid: check whether the athlete is conscious, breathing, and whether they have a pulse. At the same time, it is important to support the neck to avoid movements that can lead to paralysis if there is a fracture to the neck. The next thing to consider is whether the athlete can be moved away from the place where the injury happened. If they are conscious and experiencing neck pain, or show signs of displacement or neurological symptoms of spinal cord injuries (immobility or numbness in the arms and legs), they need to be transported on a stretcher with neck support.

If the athlete is unconscious, but breathing, then it should be assumed that there is a neck injury until proven otherwise. However, airways and ventilation should be prioritized over potential back and neck injuries. If there are signs of severe head or neck injury, seek emergency medical care. Whoever has the most medical experience on site should take charge.

Read more about treating concussions here.

Neck injury

When an athlete sustains a neck injury, call the emergency number immediately.

When someone sustains a neck injury, it is important to check whether they are conscious and breathing.

If you think the neck injury may be severe, it is important to stabilise the head and neck. Do not correct the positioning of the head if the patient is conscious. Do not move the patient until a medical professional arrives. Remember to call the emergency number.

If the patient is unconscious, take care to support their head, but avoid moving the neck. If the patient does not breath, start freeing the airways and perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). If the environment is cold, it is important to prevent the patient’s temperature from dropping by wrapping them in warm clothes or blankets.

Not all injuries are severe

After a concussion, pain and stiffness in the neck can occur. This can lead to symptoms similar to those of head trauma/concussion, including headaches, dizziness, nausea and pressure in the head. The symptoms will usually improve after a few days.

If any such symptom lasts for more than 3 weeks, seek medical care (if possible from a sports physician) for evaluation and treatment.

Read more about treating neck injuries here.

Sprained knee

If you suspect a knee injury, stop your activity and start PRICE treatment immediately, focusing on compressing the knee joint. Elevate the injured leg higher than the rest of the body. Go straight to the emergency room if there are signs of injury to the ligament or meniscus. If the right treatment is performed early enough, it is possible to examine the knee. If it swells significantly, it will be more difficult to make a diagnosis.

Read more about treating acute knee injuries here.

Pulled muscle in the thigh/calf

Stop your activity if you think a muscle fiber may be torn. Start PRICE treatment immediately. Be sure to apply compression to the affected area. Avoid putting any weight on the injured muscle for the first 24 hours.

Important note: If you hear a snap or crack, the Achilles tendon may be injured or torn. Go straight to the emergency room. Apply compression and ice as usual.

Read more about treating acute thigh injuries and lower leg here.

Blow to the thigh

A blow (contusion) to the thigh will cause pain and swelling. Start PRICE treatment immediately. Next, in order to minimise symptoms, apply compression to the thigh, keeping the hip and knee bent. This will make it easier to bend and stretch the leg during the next days. Important note: The thigh muscle should not be stretched for the first 2-3 days.

Read more about treating acute thigh injuries here