The High Risks of Taking to the High Slopes of Idaho

For Idahoans who prefer snowstorms over sunshine, heading to the hills with a pair of skis can be one of the best ways to enjoy a winter day. However, skiers and snowboarders must often go to great lengths to ensure their own safety and well-being.

Even compared to contact sports like football and rugby, skiing and snowboarding can push participants to their limits. Athletes face a wide range of highly variable challenges, from irregular terrain and high speeds to avalanches. Any mistake or miscalculation, no matter how minor, could thrust skiers into unusually dangerous positions.

While ski and snowboard-related accidents have any number of potential causes, the most common risk factors include the following:

  • Inexperience
  • Inadequate strength
  • Poor form
  • Old or unmaintained equipment
  • Poorly fitting footwear
  • Failure to adhere to warning signs

Since winter sports often involve high speeds and steep slopes, simply trying to tackle a hill beyond an athlete’s skill level could result in serious injuries.

Understanding Traumatic Winter Sports Injuries

Ski and snowboarding injuries are typically caused by either physical trauma or personal oversight.

Physical trauma, for instance, is most often caused by actual accidents—a slip, a fall, or a collision. In most cases, higher speeds and bigger heights correlate with more significant injuries. However, the severity of trauma-related injuries can vary considerably. The most common injuries include the following.

Ankle Sprains

A sprained ankle is a common injury caused by rolling, twisting, or turning the ankle in an awkward or unusual manner. Most ski and snowboard-related sprains are caused by falls.

Treatment for a sprained ankle is usually dependent on the severity of the injury. In mild cases, patients may need little more than over-the-counter painkillers and ice. However, if a sprain is especially severe, your podiatrist might recommend a special cast or walking boot to immobilize the ankle as it heals.


Fractures of the toes, ankles, and feet are all common among winter sports participants. If an athlete falls at an angle or with an arm or foot outstretched, they could fracture the bone.

Broken bones are typically treated through casting, but patients may also need physical rehabilitation to strengthen supporting muscles and regain mobility. 

Achilles Tendon Ruptures

An Achilles tendon rupture is the partial or total tearing of the Achilles tendon, the band of tissue attaching the calf muscle to the heel bone. This injury occurs when the Achilles tendon is stretched past its breaking point.

Some Achilles tendon ruptures are gradual and caused by overuse. However, tears are usually sudden, caused by tripping, falling, or twisting.

Making Sense of Painful Oversight and Overuse Injuries

Oversight and overuse injuries are often more difficult to detect than those caused by physical trauma. They may be caused by weakened muscles, ill-fitting boots, or improper equipment. In many cases, these injuries are not always immediately noticeable, and they may take days, weeks, or even months to fully develop.

Common oversight and overuse-related injuries include the following.

Skier’s Toe

Skier’s toe is a common type of nail injury caused by contact between the toenail and a tight-fitting ski boot or other such device. It can turn an affected toenail blue or black due to bleeding within the nailbed.

Some people can obtain immediate relief by taking painkillers and wearing larger boots. However, if symptoms are very severe, your podiatrist may have to relieve pressure underneath the nail.


Metatarsalgia is a term used to describe pain and inflammation in the forefoot, which encompasses the toes and the region around them. It is a very common overuse injury, but one with symptoms serious enough to spoil an entire season.

Depending on the cause of your metatarsalgia, your podiatrist might recommend rest, icing, or orthotic supports.

Morton’s Neuroma

Morton’s neuroma is the thickening of tissue around certain nerves leading to the toes. Patients may experience a sharp, burning pain in the ball of the foot; many report the sensation of having a pebble in their shoe or an uncomfortable fold in their sock.

Tight-fitting ski boots and snowboarding boots can cause Morton’s neuroma, but most athletes with this condition wear similarly restrictive footwear—like high heels—regularly and in everyday life, too.

Morton’s neuroma does not disappear by itself but can almost always be alleviated through podiatric intervention.

Dr. P. Roman Burk
Providing experienced private practice podiatry services in the Caldwell and Meridian, ID area since 2007.