Skiing Holiday Injuries: Your go to guide

The Winter wonderland scenery, holing up in a log cabin by a fire whilst it snows outside, your adrenalin pumping as you’re skiing down the mountain…there are many reasons why people choose to go on skiing holidays, but unfortunately this snowy heaven can be cut short by the injuries that come with extreme sports. 

There’s been a significant increase in the number of people that are now going on skiing holidays, according to The Ski Club of Great Britain, and thankfully out of the several million people that go skiing each year, only a handful return with an injury.

However, if you are one of the unlucky, injured ones, then we’ve got some advice on what to do..

Shoulder Injury - the ‘quiet’ fracture 

Len Funk

Most impact injuries to the shoulder and upper arm result in either a dislocation, a fracture, damage to the rotator cuff (the cuff of muscle and soft tissue that hold the shoulder together) or a ligament sprain.

Some of these injuries are immediately obvious and treatment is immediate. Others respond well to physiotherapy (and/or sometimes surgery) in the immediate post-trip period.

However, occasionally injuries do not appear to respond to treatment – an example of which being an ‘undisplaced greater tuberosity fracture’. 

In this situation, a person will probably complain of ongoing pain in the shoulder - not helped by a course of active physiotherapy and with an X-ray failing to identify an obvious cause for the pain. 

The recommended treatment plan for someone with shoulder pain that is not settling after 3 weeks and where there is a history of an impact injury to the area (e.g. heavy fall) is:

  • Referral for an ultrasound or MRI scan (which will better identify any small fractures) 
  • An injection into the joint to aid pain relief and reduce inflammation
  • Resting of the injured limb, followed by gentle physiotherapy.

Hand Injury - ‘Skiers Thumb’ 

Mike Hayton

Skiers thumb is very common and usually occurs as a result of a fall when skiing. There are two main reasons for the injury:

 - The first occurs when the thumb gets caught up in the ski pole strap 

 - The second happens when, upon hitting the semi soft snow, the thumb is bent backwards and sideways.

Pain the first thing that’s noticed - on the inside of the thumb just further along from the webspace. The thumb may also feel floppy and unable to pinch against the index finger tip.

This is an injury that can await treatment until you get home; the thumb will be fine if a bandage or splint is used for support in the short-term. A small operation is usually required to rectify the problem, followed by the wearing of a removable splint for about 6 weeks afterwards - but with exercises to mobilise the thumb generally starting within two weeks, so as to avoid stiffness. 


Knee Injury 

Sanjay Anand

Did you know approximately 40% of skiing injuries involve the knees? 

Thankfully advances in equipment and technology have reduced the number of ankle or leg fractures from skiing, and learning to fall safely may provide a simple method to prevent injuries such as cruciate ligament injuries. 

Falling forwards, or to the side, is much safer than falling backwards, as the knee is not forced into hyper-flexion.  If you do fall, do not try and stop your slide as your ski may suddenly catch in the snow and cause a twisting injury to your knee, and avoid moguls and jumps unless you are an experienced skier.


Ask yourself these questions to help determine if you have a serious knee injury:

  • Did you hear a tear or a pop in the knee as you fell?
  •  Did your knee swell up straightaway (due to bleeding in the knee)?
  • Did you find it difficult to stand or walk?
  • Could you continue skiing?
  • Did you think you had done something serious?

If you answered yes to 2 or more, there is a chance you have sustained a significant injury.

 Once diagnosed, treatment commences initially with ‘prehabilitation’ - to reduce swelling and regain full range of movement of the knee – after which the ligament may be reconstructed with keyhole surgery.  


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