Let’s Move Quad Cities: Hit the slopes the right way this winter

MOLINE, Illinois — The Quad Cities' close proximity to winter sports attractions, such as Snowstar Winter Sports Park in Andalusia, Illinois is a bonus for those people who like to get up and move.

"As often as I can, I try to get out to the slopes either at Snowstar or take a trip out to Colorado where I have some relatives," said J.C. Clark, M.D. at ORA Orthopedics in Moline, Illinois.

Clark and his family try to experience every outdoor activity they can, whether it's pond hockey, sledding, snowball fights, and certainly skiing and snowboarding.

"Winter sports, especially, skiing and snowboarding can be dangerous especially if you’re not in shape," said Dr. Clark, adding that is especially true for beginners.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were more than 114,000 skiing-related injuries in 2014, and another 79,000 injuries related to snowboarding.

"Five or six of the more common orthopedic injuries that we see from snowboarders or skiers are first off knee injuries," said Dr. Clark.

The torque generated across the knee for snowboarders and skiers can wreak havoc on the knee's MCL and ACL.

"Now with skiers, the risk is that the length of the ski is going to provide an extra torque to your knee," said Dr. Clark. If a ski tip catches the snow wrong, the twist that follows, goes directly to the skier's the knee.

"You see a little bit different mechanisms, but then also final result injuries between the snowboarders and the skiers," said Dr. Clark.

Between skiing and snowboarding, Dr. Clark attributes some injury differentiation on how people's feet are secured.

"With snowboarders, because their feet are definitively locked-in, oftentimes to protect themselves, they have to fall and land on outstretched hands and therefore possibly sustain a wrist fracture or even like a shoulder dislocation," said Dr. Clark.

There are things to do, to make sure you stay safe on the slopes and give yourself the best opportunity to have a good, injury-free time.

Before Dr. Clark hits the slopes, he checks the weather and dresses for it, wearing layers. Next, he packs goggles and a helmet, something he says he's worn for years.

"I encourage everyone to wear a helmet from age of 2 or 3 to 100 years old, even if you’re on the bunny slopes – it doesn’t take much to get a concussion or a severe head injury," he said, adding orthopedists can fix broken bones and ligaments, but it's tough to fix the brain and spinal cord.

Another suggestion Dr. Clark has for skiers and snowboarders is to get lessons from a professional.

"Having tried to teach my boys how to ski, I’ll tell you for some reason kids won’t listen to you," laughed Dr. Clark, who has three children ages seven, five and three. "Maybe it’s just my kids - they’ll listen to instructors. Don’t try to teach your kids how to ski or snowboard. Actually have a professional snowboard or ski instructor teach them. I think the kids will listen a lot more to that instructor and probably that instructor has a lot more knowledge than the parent even if the parents has skied or snowboarded for years," he said.

Like with any sport, there is always a potential for injury, but if skiers and snowboarders obey the rules of the ski hill, receive the proper training, and protect themselves appropriately, Dr. Clark says the risk of injury isn't more than other organized sports.

"It's a fun family activity, it gets you outdoors, its exercise, you're worn out at the end of the day," said Dr. Clark.

Other common injuries Dr. Clark sees are skiers thumb, snowboarders ankle, wrist fractures and shoulder dislocations.