Patrick Thorne

29 Mar 23

Ski Accident Trial

Patrick Thorne

29 Mar 23

Gwyneth Paltrow, the Oscar-winning actress and wellness guru, is facing a lawsuit from a retired optometrist who claims she crashed into him on a ski slope in Deer Valley, Utah, in 2016. Terry Sanderson, 76, says Paltrow was skiing “out of control” and hit him from behind, causing him to suffer four broken ribs and permanent brain damage. He is seeking more than $300,000 in damages from Paltrow, who he accuses of being reckless and negligent.

Paltrow, however, denies any wrongdoing and has countersued Sanderson for a symbolic $1 and attorney fees. She says it was Sanderson who veered into her path and collided with her. She also claims he waited three years to file his lawsuit because he wanted to exploit her fame and wealth.

The trial, which began last week in a small courthouse in Park City, has attracted widespread media attention and public interest. The trial is expected to wrap up by Thursday, when the jury will deliberate and reach a verdict. The outcome could have significant implications for both parties, as well as for the ski industry and the celebrity culture.

However… we ask are ‘skiing injuries increasing due to pandemic inactivity?’

Although there has been no study as yet confirming it, a hospital reporting a rise in knee-related skiing injuries in the winter and spring months thinks the increase may be down to skiers having been unable to continue their fitness regimes during the pandemic, which in turn has made them more vulnerable to skiing injuries.

Consultants at New Victoria Hospital are highlighting the rise in ski-related injuries during the European ski season, saying that since the start of 2023, orthopaedic specialists at the hospital have seen a worrying increase in patients seeking treatment for knee injuries caused by falling in the snow or colliding with other skiers.

“There’s a general increase in patients being referred to the clinic with knee injuries during the months December to March each year,” said Mr Charles Gibbons, a Hip And Knee Orthopaedic Consultant at New Victoria Hospital. “I advise my patients to get as fit as possible before going on a skiing holiday as this can help to reduce the likelihood of injury,” explains Mr Gibbons. “It’s useful to focus on building strength in the hamstrings, hips and glutes, as you need good lower-body and core strength to stay balanced on the skis. Pre-skiing conditioning programmes with physiotherapists can be helpful if you’re new to the sport.”

On the day of skiing, it’s important to stretch before hitting the slopes so joints are more supple. “Make sure to opt for well-fitting boots, the correct binding and the correct length of skis,” Mr Gibbons adds.

Ski Accident Trial

While skiing can cause injury to almost every part of the body, Mr Gibbons says that it’s the knees that most commonly suffer resulting in around a third of all hospital visits. The most commonly damaged parts of the knee are the Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and Medial collateral ligament (MCL).

“An ACL injury is a tear or sprain to the anterior cruciate ligament – a band of tissue that helps to connect your thigh bone to your shin bone,” explains Mr Gibbons. “ACL injuries often occur during sports like skiing that have a lot of sudden stops or starts, or changes in direction.”

The MCL runs from the inside surface of the upper shin bone to the inner surface of the bottom thigh bone. It prevents the leg from over-extending inward, while stabilising the knee and allowing it to rotate.

“Ligament injuries are a spectrum, so you could have an isolated MCL or ACL tear, or both in tandem. You can have different types of sprains: spanning from a low-grade sprain to a very severe grade-three injury. However, the most common ski injury we see in the hospital is a low-grade MCL sprain.”

Because of the way that modern ski boots are designed, it’s easy to encounter tibia fractures too, which weren’t as common 40 years ago. “When people fall backwards, the foot stays clipped into the boot and the rotational force of the impact is directed through the knee joints, causing the fracture,” Mr Gibbons explains.

An ACL or MCL knee sprain can be a painful experience, causing holidaymakers to miss out on the rest of their ski holiday. “If someone has these injuries, they’ll feel immediate pain in the knee, they won’t be able to put weight on their leg and they won’t be able to carry on skiing,” explains Mr Gibbons. “With ACL injuries, often they’ll hear a ‘popping’ sound too, from the joint twisting out of place.”

Mr Gibbons says that the causes of injury can be multifactorial. “Often when these injuries occur, it’s from heavy fall, where people fall backwards and hyperextend onto their skis,” he explains. “It could be ice. It could be poor skiing technique. It could be someone coming across someone’s path. The causation can be different, but the general mechanics is that there’s a rotational force across the knee. ”

“In the first 24 hours, the knee becomes very swollen and filled with blood,” he continues. “Feeling unstable, being unable to bear weight in the leg and swelling are signs that a person should seek emergency care.

“Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment can include the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation), physiotherapy exercises to strengthen the joint or, in more severe cases, surgery to replace the torn ligament.” A surgeon can reconstruct the ACL or MCL by removing what remains of the torn ligament and replacing it with a tendon from another area of the leg.

Recovery from an ACL or MCL tear can take six to nine months, so it’s useful for holidaymakers to undertake prevention activities to lower their risk of injury.

Research has found that almost four million ski injuries (3.8 million) are also a result of skiing after drinking alcohol. “Avoid drinking alcohol at lunchtime or before returning to the slopes,” warns Mr Gibbons. “Many injuries are encountered while skiing back to a chalet after drinking at apres-ski, so it’s wise not to drink until your skis have been removed.”

Finally, Mr Gibbons says that staying injury-free is about having a level of safety awareness for other visitors enjoying the snow. “Make sure to understand the condition of the slopes and the degree of difficulty for each run. Don’t opt for slopes that are above your skiing level that could result in an avoidable fall or collision.”


Remind yourself of the rules of the pistes in advance of your next winter holiday – Introducing the Piste X Code

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