The Inside Scoop On Ski Safety: 6 Tips

January 10, 2023

Injuries happen to skiers of all levels, even under pristine conditions and when using the best available equipment. “Beginners are more likely to get injured. But when experienced skiers go down, they tend to have more severe injuries,” says Michelle Gambino-Gorney, a certified athletic trainer at the Henry Ford Kutcher Clinic for Concussion and Sports Neurology.

Henry Ford Health logoBut you don’t have to let the risk of injury hold you back from having fun on the slopes. A few basic safety tips? Stay within your ability level and ensure your skis are in good condition. That said, going beyond ski safety basics and learning how to avoid injuries can help you stay safe on the slopes. Here are six expert tips: 

Use caution when getting on and off the ski lift. Ski lifts make a lot of people anxious. Being high off the ground on your journey up the mountain can invoke a fear of falling. “But it’s getting on and off the ski lift where the vast majority of lift-related injuries occur,” Gambino-Gorney says. To lower your risk of injury, remove pole straps and backpacks before loading, look over your shoulder to make sure you sit squarely on the seat at the correct time, and don't try to retrieve items you lose hold of (including poles, gloves and phones). It’s best to let them go and ski back for them.

Keep it simple at terrain parks. Terrain parks include human-made features like ramps and rails that enable skiers to do jumps, flips and other maneuvers. Any time your skis leave the ground, injuries are possible. You can safely enjoy terrain parks by starting with smaller obstacles and maneuvers and mastering them before moving on to other challenges. Do not rely on online tutorials to learn new skills. Ski instructors can help you learn the correct technique and provide personalized tips for achieving your goals.

Beware of trees. Trees present multiple dangers. Colliding with a tree, especially at high speed, leads to some of the most severe ski injuries. A small number of skiers die each year from tree collisions. To avoid collisions, ski with control.  Other concerns include tree wells and snow immersion suffocation. This type of injury occurs when a person falls head first into a pocket of loose snow near a tree trunk and gets trapped. Skiing with a partner on ungroomed paths, which typically run past tree wells, is essential. If you become immersed in a tree well, a partner can step in to help you break free. 

Pay extra attention during your final run of the day. Injuries are more common during skiers’ last runs. “Skiing later in the day can be dangerous because small changes can affect your ability to maneuver and react to conditions,” Gambino-Gorney says. Fresh powder may get matted down. Groomed areas become bumpy. And fatigue can make you less aware of hazards and other skiers. While it may be tempting to give it your all on your last run, it’s better to ease up and take your time.

Follow the Skier Code of Responsibility. People of all ages, abilities and ski levels can safely share the slopes when everyone follows the National Ski Area Association™ Responsibility Code. Key points include: Giving right of way to people ahead of (downhill from) you, staying off closed trails, and looking uphill for other skiers when merging.

Expedite access to help in an emergency. Being prepared can help you quickly reach ski patrol in an emergency. Most ski areas list their ski patrol phone number near the lifts. While you are waiting in the ski lift line, program it into your phone. If you or someone nearby experiences an injury, being able to call for help will save precious time. Instead of waiting for someone to ski down the mountain and ask for help, you can stay with the injured person and call for help. Calling also makes it easier to share important details so that ski patrol arrives with the appropriate people and equipment.

“Skiing is like any sport in that there’s a risk of injury. But many people hit the slopes without incident. Some skiers go decades without a single fall,” Gambino-Gorney says. Follow these insider tips and don't forget to wear a helmet so you can relish your next powder day and get the most out of the season.

To find a sports medicine provider at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com/sports or call 313-651-1969.

Michelle Gambino-Gorney is a certified athletic trainer at the Henry Ford Kutcher Clinic for Concussion and Sports Neurology.

How To Warm Up Correctly Before Playing Different Sports

July 10, 2024

When you see professional athletes gearing up to race or getting ready to take the field, you’ll notice that they’re always in motion. That’s because they are warming up in preparation for going all out.

Henry Ford HealthAnd there’s a good reason why you’ll never see a pro go straight from the bench into a full sprint. “You need to allow your muscles to gradually accept the demands of your activity,” says Jennifer Burnham, a certified athletic trainer at Henry Ford Health. “Otherwise you risk causing an injury.”

Why You Should Warm Up

As the name implies, a warmup is a series of movements designed to warm up your muscles. “You want to increase blood flow to your muscles and loosen up and lubricate your joints,” says Burnham. “And you need to do it gradually, so that your body has time to adapt to the increasing intensity.”

Warming up involves more than just stretching. According to Burnham, studies have actually shown that holding a static stretch when muscles are cold can decrease performance. “Instead, before activity you want to do a dynamic warmup that incorporates movement as well as some gentle stretching."

Your warmup only needs to take 5 to 10 minutes. When deciding what to do, think about the movements you’ll be doing in your activity and which muscles and joints are most involved. Then choose movements that slowly get them warmed up and primed for more intense action.

How To Warm Up For Different Activities

No matter your sport, the warmup before your workout should include some exercises to activate and engage your core (the abdominal and back muscles). “Waking up those muscles helps decrease injury potential,” says Burnham. She suggests incorporating bridges and mini squats (no deeper than 45 degrees) into your warmup routine. To do a bridge, lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Tighten your stomach muscles and squeeze your butt as you lift your hips up to form a straight line from knees to shoulders.

The rest of your warmup can be more specific to muscles and movements of your planned activity.

Running

Before a run, or even a jog, you want to warm up all the muscles and joints from the waist down.

  • Rotate your hips (lift your knee up and do some circles in both directions to move the joint) and ankles (circle one foot at a time both clockwise and counter-clockwise).
  • Get powerful muscles like your glutes and quads ready with high knees and butt kicks.
  • Walk on your toes and then on your heels to warm up shin and calf muscles.
  • When you’re ready to run, start off slowly and gradually increase your speed.

Racquet sports

You still need to warm up your lower body using the same moves as the running warmup. But you’ll want to add in others specific to the upper body movements of tennis, pickleball or other racket sports.

  • Warm up shoulders with big arm circles both forwards and backwards
  • Circle your hands in both directions to get wrists ready for action
  • Lunge forward and rotate your upper torso to increase your spine mobility

Basketball, soccer and football

You want to make sure your lower body has time to adapt to the demands of sports that require bursts of sprinting and quick shifts of direction. Your warmup should gradually increase in speed and intensity as you move your body in all directions:

  • Side shuffles while swinging your arms (shuffle in both directions)
  • Grapevines in both directions
  • Skip forward, lifting knees high, then skip backward

Swimming

Prepping your body for a swimming workout means warming up your arms, shoulders and upper back.

  • Circle arms backwards and forwards
  • Use a light resistance band to do shoulder rows
  • Use a light resistance band or light dumbbell and lift straight arms up to shoulder height in front and to your sides
  • Start with an easy tempo freestyle swim before going into more dynamic strokes like butterfly

Jennifer Burnham is an athletic trainer who sees patients at the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine in Detroit.

To find a sports medicine provider at Henry Ford Health, visit henryford.com/athletes or call 313-651-1969.