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The Winter Olympics: Injuries are No Game


The 2018 Winter Olympics are underway in PyeongChang, South Korea. The pageantry, spectacle, and sheer thrill of the Games has not disappointed so far, and the “soft-power” diplomacy of sports is on vivid display between North and South Korea. One of the reasons that the Winter Games are must-see TV is the danger involved in many of the sports. Watching a snowboarder like Chloe Kim somersault through a gravity-defying stunt, or an aerial freestyle skier like Ashley Caldwell fly through the air, flip, twist, and land on the side of a hill makes for some compelling viewing. But these events also make for some serious injuries. In fact, aerial freestyle skiing and snowboarding are the most dangerous sports in the Winter—and Summer—Olympics.

The Winter Olympics are more dangerous than the Summer Olympics due to the extreme nature of the events. Studies of the Winter Games showed that more than 1 in 10 athletes at the last two Winter Olympics were injured at the Games. The sports where most injuries occurred were: (1) luge; (2) alpine skiing; (3) bobsleigh; and (4) snowboarding. The recent deaths at Winter Olympics support these findings: a U.S. luger was killed in the 2010 Winter Games; a Canadian cross-skier was killed in 2012; and a French skier died in 2015. The types of injuries from these extreme Winter Olympic sports are also extreme: brain trauma, fractured spinal cords, concussions, shattered knees, broken bones, and torn ligaments. The British snowboarder and medalist Zoe Gillings-Brier described her career injuries in an interview as the following: a crushed left foot (during competition); a torn ligament in her knee; torn cartilage in the other knee; torn ligaments in her shoulder; six concussions; and broken collar bones. Gillings-Brier is 32 and competing in PyeongChang.


You don’t have to be training for or competing in the Olympics to seriously injure yourself when engaging in winter sports, however. Many winter sports, by their very nature, are dangerous: hard surfaces such as ice and packed snow, often combined with extreme speed and/or physical contact, can make for some serious injuries. In 2015, some 246,000 people were treated for injuries caused by winter sports. The statistics break down like this:

  1. skiing was responsible for 88,000 injuries;
  2. snowboarding was responsible for 61,000 injuries;
  3. ice-skating caused 50,000 injuries;
  4. sledding, snow-tubing and tobogganing led to 47,000 injuries.

Just as the studies of the Winter Games showed, these statistics reveal that skiing and snowboarding are the most dangerous winter sports.


To minimize the risk of injury associated with winter sports, follow these safety precautions:

  1. Always inspect your equipment—the bindings on your skis, the laces on your skates, etc. Make sure that everything is in good working order and fix or replace what is not. Learn how to put on and use your equipment the right way; never be embarrassed to ask for help. It is more “embarrassing” to be taken off a slope on a stretcher than to ask for help having your bindings tightened.
  2. Wear all protective gear suggested/required/allowed for your sport, including a helmet, reflective clothing, pads, etc. Wear gear that is age appropriate, and that may be required for your particular needs as well.
  3. Warm up! This simple admonition is often overlooked, but is so crucial to preventing not just muscle strains and sprains, but accidents—and fractures from those accidents—that are caused by strained/sprained muscles.
  4. Fall properly, if possible. When falling is unavoidable, and sometimes preferable to flying through the air at an alarming speed, fall in a way that protects your head and hopefully your limbs from breaking.


If you or someone you know has been injured while participating in a winter sport, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation regarding your legal rights.

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