Winter Sports: Damage Limitation Exercise

As summer draws to a close, thoughts turn to winter ski breaks. Skiing and increasingly snowboarding continue to grow in popularity. However, the risk of injury when participating in these sports is relatively high, so good instruction, the right safety equipment and sound healthcare insurance are all prerequisites for an enjoyable winter sports holiday. As people become more aware of the dangers of head injuries, particularly since the tragic death of Natasha Richardson recently, helmets for skiers and snowboarders are becoming increasingly popular. Snowboarding alone creates approximately100,000 wrist fractures a year and knee ligament injuries are the most common problem with both skiers and snowboarders on the slopes.

The risk of injury also increases when avalanches are factored in. Although relatively uncommon in relation to sporting injuries, they are still prevalent, and so it is recommended that those partaking in winter sports familiarise themselves with basic avalanche survival training before getting onto the slopes. Winter sports injuries are not only limited to amateurs. The International Ski Federation which works with professional sports men and women closely monitors the number of injuries to try and limit the time spent off-piste. According to their figures 30 out of 100 athletes sustain injuries each year - the main ones being problems with knee ligaments followed by head injuries.

Most of the national ski associations are calling for helmets to be made compulsory for skiers and snowboarders, so as awareness is raised, this may be an increasingly common site on the ski slopes this winter. Due to the usually remote areas in which skiing and snowboarding take place, it is important that people have the best possible healthcare when participating in winter sports. It is often the case, particularly with head injuries, that hospital admission is needed, and so the quicker you can get off the slopes the better. This will often include an airlift by helicopter. Many travel insurance policies do not include winter sports in their breakdown of cover, and if it is included, it is often very basic in its range of cover. Even private health insurance providers often do not always provide cover for winter sports, or if they offer the option, will add a higher premium loading. It is best to check your existing cover to avoid any nasty surprises if and when you need medical help on the slopes.

April International UK, who haves over 30 years’ experience of serving expatriates, is one provider which includes winter sports cover for all of its policyholders. Commenting on the need to stay safe whilst participating in winter sports, Debbie Purser, CEO at April International UK said: “The welfare of our policyholders is always paramount. As a company, we would advise people to wear appropriate safety equipment and to familiarise themselves with basic survival training if they were unfortunate enough to be trapped in an avalanche. Good healthcare insurance is a must, as transport to the hospital should be as quick as possible, with access to the best possible healthcare. The extremely high number of injuries which take place show that damage limitation is the best possible approach before you set off on your winter break."