Ski trip injury first aid

Injuring yourself on the mountain can be a scary and frustrating time. Nuffield Health Senior Physiotherapist Andrew Letheren offers some sage advice for what to do if you take a tumble on the slopes.

According to the most recent data available, the injury rate for snow sports was 3.7 injuries per 1000 skier days. The most common injuries for skiers are to their legs, usually if bindings don’t release properly. The most common injuries for snowboarders are to their arms, as boarders reach forwards or backwards to protect themselves when they skid.

Nobody heads to Chamonix, Val Thorens or Whistler with injury in mind, but it’s good to know what to do if an accident occurs on the slopes.

If you’ve sustained what you think is a soft tissue injury (i.e. not a broken bone) the current advice follows the acronym "PEACE & LOVE".


P: protection. Avoid activities and movements that increase pain in the first few days after injury
E: elevation. Elevate the injured limb higher than the heart as often as possible
A: avoid anti-inflammatories. Avoid taking anti-inflammatory medications as they may reduce tissue healing
C: compression. Use an elastic bandage or taping to reduce swelling
E: education. Your body knows best - let nature play its role.


L: load. Let pain guide your gradual return to activities. Your body will tell you when it's safe to increase load
O: optimism. Condition your brain for optimal recovery by being confident and positive
V: vascularisation. Choose pain free cardiovascular activities to increase blood flow to repairing tissues
E: exercise. Restore mobility, strength and proprioception.

If you suspect that your injury is a break, or if you are in a lot of pain, seek immediate medical attention. It can be tempting to stay in the après-ski with your friends or to continue having fun on the slopes, but your injury could get worse or you could do yourself more harm than good. Have a friend help you safely down the mountain and seek medical help. If you're still in pain after returning from your trip, a couple of sessions with a physiotherapist could help get you moving comfortably again.

Last updated Wednesday 14 September 2022

First published on Monday 9 November 2015