Most accidents on skiing holidays occur while actually on the slopes, although the number of non-skiing injuries is rising. Common causes include falls on icy roads, tobogganing and ice skating accidents, and even collisions with airport luggage trolleys.
The nature of potential injuries varies enormously. Fifty per cent are minor, such as muscular strains and bruises; the remainder include torn knee ligaments, leg fractures, dislocated thumbs and shoulders, and wrist injuries.
The treatment of most minor injuries (muscle strains and bruises, joint strains, minor ligament strains) involves four stages: rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE). The affected limb should be fully rested for 24 hours. Apply ice to the injury within 30 minutes to minimise swelling, keeping it in place until the skin of the affected part turns pink. Compression with a tight (elasticated) bandage, and elevation of the affected limb for from 2-24 hours will also help to avoid swelling.
This treatment will reduce inflammation and should allow you to resume skiing as soon as possible. Start gently and make sure that you adequately support the injury. If pain or swelling persist, consult a local doctor, who will probably suggest a common anti-inflammatory.
Particular care must be taken over knees; if rapid swelling occurs after even a trivial injury, you may have damaged a ligament and need urgent medical attention. Once a knee has been damaged it tends to be less stable, and many skiers subsequently find a knee brace helpful. These range from simple neoprene bandages to major works of engineering with titanium struts and hinges. If you are worried, or have had a serious joint injury, speak to your doctor.
In any serious accident you should first ensure the safety of the injured skier, planting a pair of crossed skis above the accident site to warn others and mark the location. Then call the rescue service. One person should remain with the victim.
Keep the victim warm, remove skis but not boots, and do not give any alcohol. If there is any possibility of a spine or neck injury do not attempt to move them. Obvious bleeding should be staunched by direct pressure on the bleeding point and elevation if possible. Unconscious skiers should be carefully laid on their side, ensuring their mouth is empty of snow and vomit. If there is no palpable pulse or breathing, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation is needed.
Minor injuries on the slopes are much more common. Leg injuries, even if quite trivial, often entail a ride down in the rescue sledge (or blood wagon), as do most shoulder dislocations or broken arms. Arm injuries should be strapped with a scarf or jumper to minimise movement until medical advice can be sought, and legs splinted, using ski poles if necessary.