Outdoor sports are riveting, beautiful, and challenging, but none of them come without risks- especially in the winter. Acknowledging the dangers of each sport and the respective awareness or precautions to take in mitigating these risks can allow for preparedness that breeds confidence on the snow. These are the top 8 most dangerous (in no particular/ranked order) winter sports according to Odd Stuff Magazine:
Hockey has become increasingly safer due to improved equipment, but the constant collisions and falling onto ice make hockey a high-impact sport. Sharp blades and sticks heighten risk when on the ground, while the puck’s small shape makes hits from its hard exterior painful. Add to that, the traditional brawling in hockey, where getting hurt becomes intentional and expected.
Basic physics implies that acceleration and increases the amount of force applied upon deceleration, especially when you add height (and gravity) to the equation. Ski jumping does both of these things- and even perfectly landed jumps have an impact on the skier, especially over time. However, if a jump is improperly executed or the conditions of the launch change, the probability of serious injury (especially with the bulk of skis) is very high.
Similar to the impact of ski jumping, acceleration on toboggans and sleds is dangerous- and susceptibility is heightened by the lack of control the rider has on the sled. Pictured above is a flier from Thredbo in Australia on why they chose to ban toboggans and “other miscellaneous snow sliding equipment.” (i.e. sleds).
Speed skating is dangerous in its own rate as a combination of the above-mentioned hockey dangers (i.e. blades) and high-velocity dangers. Put that on a short track and the aptitude for injury seems to increase: perhaps the competitiveness on a 1,111 m track versus the 4,000 m long track drives moves that are riskier.
It’s probably not a surprise to most people reading SnowBrains that downhill skiing has its risks. Conversations with any ski patroller will showcase the worst of accidents at ski resorts. Concussions, broken bones, dislocations, and sprains are all very common downhill skiing injuries. Newer skiers are more prone to injury from undeveloped muscles and tendons. The crossing of skis is one of the most common precursors to these accidents, so a little experience goes a long way- but don’t let it create a false sense of security and always be aware of posture, technique and the hazards around you out of your control.
Ice skating doesn’t need to involve Olympic-style skills like triple axles to merit danger. Simple recreational ice skating can create risk for falls on a surface firm enough to easily cause concussions, along with extra injuries from the sharp and small surface area of skates.
Freestyle skiing and ski acrobatics combine the dangers of downhill and ski jumping, plus a few unique hazards. Debilitating injuries and even death have resulted in even the most professional freestyle skiers- it should only be attempted with ample experience and always with precaution. Nonetheless, it’s pretty cool.
Experts analyzed statistics from the 2006 Winter Olympics and identified snowboarding as the most hazardous due to injury. Falls are more frequent than with skiing and collisions at high speed harder to maneuver. Novice snowboarders are likely to develop wrist injuries from improper falls as well.
Despite all these risks, snow sports shouldn’t be strayed from: risk is apart of life and you’re at highest risk of death and injury when you drive or ride in a car. Many of these risks can be mitigated with proper equipment, awareness, and training to ease into more advanced levels. Appreciate risk, but don’t always avoid it.