Snow sports enthusiasts are at risk of more serious injury complications due to insufficient diagnosis on skiing or snowboarding holidays, say medical experts at Highgate Private Hospital. Consultants Dr Ademola Adejuwon and Dr James Thing of the hospital’s Sports and Exercise Medicine department have recently launched its first dedicated Snow Sports Injury Clinic to help patients who are concerned about the diagnosis and treatments they receive abroad.
Dr Ademola Adejuwon says, “Usually patients are seen in A&E abroad at the ski resort. They have an initial assessment that normally includes an X-Ray but not an MRI. Bony injuries tend to be diagnosed abroad, but soft tissue/ligament/tendon injuries are generally not confirmed, leaving the individual with uncertainty as to their diagnosis and severity of their injury.”
Those returning with injuries from the slopes are likely to have been seen first and foremost by local doctors in that country. However, the medical attention provided may not have confirmed a diagnosis, so it is likely to result in the patient not knowing how much time to take off work, or whether they will be able to continue certain activities. Dr Thing says, “It is these patients who are most likely to benefit from the hospital’s snow sports clinic. Appointments should ideally be made as soon as possible upon returning to the UK.”
Skiing is a winter sport enjoyed by approximately 200 million people worldwide and is generally considered a safe sport, with injury rates between two to four injuries per day per 1000 participants.
This figure is slightly higher in snowboarding, with rate of injuries between three and five per day per 1000 participants. Overall, each ski participant could expect one injury for every 275 days of skiing.
In the event of an injury, Dr Adejuwon and Dr Thing summarise their advice for potential patients:
What could happen if you don’t receive proper treatment?
It is not uncommon for soft tissue, ligament and tendon injuries to be missed at an initial emergency appointment. Ligament injuries of the elbow, thumb, knee and ankle may have serious implications and should be diagnosed early in order to optimise outcomes. Many of these injuries can be managed non-operatively by Highgate’s Sport and Exercise Medicine Consultants, but some may require onward referral for a surgical/orthopaedic opinion, which is available onsite at Highgate Private Hospital.
How long should you wait before returning to skiing/snowboarding after sustaining an injury?
This is hugely variable and very much depends on the structure(s) involved and the severity of the injury. A minor (grade 1) injury of an ankle ligament will take far less time to recover from (2–6 weeks), compared to a rupture of a knee cruciate ligament, which might take 9–12 months of concerted rehabilitation efforts. The key is early assessment, diagnosis and institution of an effective management strategy.
More details can be found on the snow sports clinic website: www.highgatehospital.co.uk/snowsportinjuryclinic