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January 15, 2013
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Doctors offer tips to help you stay safe on the slopes

The skiing and snowboarding at Lake Tahoe are spectacular and also offer a great way to stay in shape. Still, these winter sports don't come without risks. Tahoe Center for Orthopedics' specialists share a few tips to help keep every part of you safe on the slopes.

Don't let a slip ruin your backcountry trip. Fractures and dislocations need immediate medical attention, especially while backcountry skiing or riding. Some basic measures can be taken to help an injured person when you're in the backcountry, such as restraining the injured area from moving by using the most practical material you have, such as ski poles, duct tape, and some sort of padding. Keep the joint immobilized both above and below the injured area. - Keith Swanson, M.D.

Get the gist and protect your wrist. Injury patterns among snowboarders are influenced by skill level as well as risk-taking behavior. Snowboarders, in general, are more prone to upper extremity injuries while riding. Beginners and novices are at particularly high risk for wrist fractures. Expert riders have increased incidence of head, spine and torso injuries. While wrist guards and helmets have been shown to reduce wrist and head injuries among snowboarders, the reality is that reducing injury while riding is more about what "is in your head," meaning knowledge and awareness, than what is on your head or wrists. - Daniel Robertson, M.D.

Train to help avoid pain. Cross-training with low-impact sports such as swimming, jogging, soccer, and cycling will not only help get your heart rate up, but may even help prevent an injury while on the slopes. For help with flexibility and balance, as well as core strengthening, try Pilates or yoga. And, don't forget to incorporate overall strength training with a focus on your legs, upper body, and arms. - Stephen Bannar, M.D.

Don't go too long without getting those knees strong. Biking and hiking the hills of South Lake Tahoe during spring, summer, and fall will help you gear up for the winter season. Whether skiing, snowshoeing, playing hockey, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, or even walking in the snow or on ice?stability and strength training are the key to having strong knees. - Terrence Orr, M.D.

Don't be a fool; helmets are cool! Wear a helmet when skiing, snowboarding, or playing hockey. Helmets help prevent concussions and reduce the possibility of a more serious head injury. The most severe potential injury is second impact syndrome, which occurs when an athlete with concussion symptoms returns to play and gets another injury to the head. This can have fatal effects. See a physician promptly if you think you've sustained a concussion. - Jonathan Finnoff, D.O.

Lifting a boulder? Remember that shoulder! OK, so you may not be lifting a boulder any time soon, but warming up before any activity requiring repetitive motion of the shoulder is crucial. Preseason conditioning and strengthening the rotator cuff and core muscles can help prevent injuries. Proper mechanics can take stress off the shoulder, decreasing the chance for injury. The key is to be consistent with your training program. - Kyle Swanson, M.D.

Get the facts and protect your back. Low back injuries are most commonly caused by twisting while sitting or standing in a forward, bent position. But, while on the slopes, speed is the leading factor when it comes to back injuries. The impact of force from going fast down a hill can result in serious back injury and possibly paralysis. In addition to using proper body mechanics, be sure to slow down, look ahead, and never ski in a manner that puts you or others at risk for injury. - Michael Fry, M.D.

Take a dip for a stronger hip. We pay attention to our back, knees, and shoulders when training for the ski season, but the hip is a vital bone that often gets ignored. The three joints that are the most taxed on the slopes are the knees, hips, and ankles. Apart from the use of all the major muscle groups, swimming helps keep hip joints flexible and builds strength and endurance. - Robert Rupp, M.D.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jan 15, 2013 05:47PM Published Jan 15, 2013 05:46PM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.