Shoulder injuries from alpine skiing and snowboarding. Aetiology, treatment and prevention

Sports Med. 1998 Mar;25(3):201-11. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199825030-00006.


There has been a decrease in the overall injury rate and the rate of lower extremity injuries for alpine skiing, with a resultant increase in the ratio of upper extremity to lower extremity injuries. Upper extremity injuries account for 20 to 35% of all injuries during alpine skiing and nearly 50% of all injuries during snowboarding. The most common upper extremity injuries during skiing are sprain of the thumb metacarpal-phalangeal joint ulnar collateral ligament, and the most common in snowboarding is wrist fracture. Shoulder injuries from skiing and snowboarding have been less well characterised. With the increased ratio of upper to lower extremity injuries during alpine skiing and the boom in popularity of snowboarding, shoulder injuries will be seen with increasing frequency by those who care for alpine sport injuries. Shoulder injuries account for 4 to 11% of all alpine skiing injuries and 22 to 41% of upper extremity injuries. The rate of shoulder injuries during alpine skiing is 0.2 to 0.5 injuries per thousand skier-days. During snowboarding, shoulder injuries account for 8 to 16% of all injuries and 20 to 34% of upper extremity injuries. Falls are the most common mechanism of shoulder injury, in addition to pole planting during skiing and aerial manoeuvres during snowboarding. Common shoulder injuries during skiing and snowboarding are glenohumeral instability, rotator cuff strains, acromioclavicular separations and clavicle fractures. Less common shoulder injuries include greater tuberosity fractures, trapezius strains, proximal humerus fractures, biceps strains, glenoid fractures, scapula fractures, humeral head fractures, sterno-clavicular separations, acromion fractures and biceps tendon dislocation. Prevention of shoulder injuries during skiing and snowboarding may be possible through interventions in education and technique, conditioning and equipment and environment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology*
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Athletic Injuries / therapy
  • Female
  • Fracture Fixation / methods
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnostic imaging
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Fractures, Bone / therapy
  • Health Education
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Shoulder / diagnostic imaging
  • Shoulder Injuries*
  • Skating / injuries*
  • Skiing / injuries*
  • United States / epidemiology