Skiing Holiday, Broken Bone

Sweden is shaped like a ski, and people live mainly in the southern quarter, but in the other three-quarters there are many skiing resorts. I've been going there every few years since I was three. I'm not a competitive or particularly elegant down-hill skier, but I enjoy it and I can get down all kinds of slopes and I rarely fall.

In recent years my wife and I have taken the kids to one of the country's southernmost skiing resorts, simply because if one of you is going to spend most of their time on the kiddy slope with a neophyte, then there is little reason to drive for seven hours one way. My wife had tired of Romme near Borlänge, so this year she did the booking and put us in Bjursås near Falun. It took us less than four hours to get there from Fisksätra, lunch break included.

Bjursås ("beaver sauce") offers a modest number of ski lifts and slopes, and few of the latter are very long or steep. This was the year when Juniorette really became a serious skier, who ploughs down the slopes at considerable speed with little fear and few falls. And Junior is an excellent babysitter & skiing partner these days, so part of the time they zipped around on their own.

I don't like gadget sports. I enjoy buying as little gear as possible, so this year I wore a cap I bought at the Great Wall outside Beijing years ago, a staff jacket from the Västerås town paper that my wife got me when she worked there in '99, a pair of gloves someone left at my house one gaming night, and faded jeans. But oldest of all was my actual skiing gear: given to me by my parents in '88 and still sporting my childhood phone number written in my dad's hand. Quality stuff, I just sharpen the steel edges now and then and I'm fine. The boots are actually the best I've seen, with a single open/close latch instead of the crazy Gigeresque alien armour current ski boots look like. (I remember now that I wrote about my gear last winter too.)

Anyway, to my dismay I broke one of my poles this year. I was in a sitting lift with a mid-slope station, and when me and Junior passed that station one of my poles got lodged against the wooden deck and bent. Aluminum cylinder, broke when I tried to straighten it. So goodbye 80s ski pole. Still, I did have one perfectly usable one left... So I went down to the rental shop and asked if they had any solitary ski poles of the right length. Sure enough, they did - and they gave me one for free. So now I've got mismatched recycled skiing poles and I feel pretty smug about not throwing away gear or money unnecessarily.

Distinctly non-smug is how I felt yesterday afternoon though when Junior came down a light slope at his usual sane clip, braked, fell over in front of me and broke his left arm. So we spent last night at Falun main hospital. But as my friend David the physiotherapist commented, if you must break a bone, break your radius. The ulna will keep it straight and it'll heal just fine. In this case, we were particularly lucky about it: it's a "green stick fracture" with no displacement of the bone ends at the break, which is pretty much the kind of fracture you'll want if you must snap off your radius. And of course you'll prefer to break your second hand, not your first.

Did you know that patients are no longer encouraged to carry their broken arms in a sling? Apparently this causes immobilisation, muscle atrophy and poor circulation, all of which prolongs and impedes rehabilitation. So Junior walks around with his plaster resting on his left-hand shoulder and uses his left-hand fingers for sundry small tasks. But he complains about difficulties when using the bathroom, and last night I washed his face for him the way I used to when he was a little kid.

Oh, and one of the slopes is named Pot Nook, Harsprånget. Dalecarlian stoners...

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I saw the headline and eminently started to look for at x-ray photo and that's why osteologists should not have babies â I'm living proof. That aside I hope all will work out fine and that junior heals nicely :)

Magnus Reuterdahl

Well there's nothing worse than a trip to the ER! Sorry for Junior, ouch. I hate slings. I was put into one after shoulder manipulation but I didn't wear it. However, that's another argument against a sling & prolonged immobilizationâit can freeze your joints. I suppose that happens less when you are young. Chances are he'll soon be waving that thing around like a weapon so mind the crockery.

First, glad to know that Junior is OK.

Then, frugality is all well and good, but ...

As a ski patroller (on-piste medic, whatever the term is in your neighborhood) I have acquired a few opinions regarding safety:

* Skis of any age are OK, but the newer ones are so much better (in part for being shorter but better at all speeds) that they're worth while.
* Bindings over ten years old are not safe. Age is part of it, but a large part is design and materials. Please replace them -- you can probably score some decent used ones for not too much.
* Helmets are more comfortable than caps. Seriously.
* Cotton kills.
* Snowboarders should wear wrist braces, precisely to prevent displaced and angulated radius/ulna fractures. About half of the injuries I see are snowboarder "wrist" injuries.

The total number of skiing leg injuries I see has dropped precipitously over the last 14 years. Some of that is demographics, but demographics don't account for all of it. The equipment (better bindings, engineered skis) really does make a difference.

Great source on ski injuries from a Scotts MD: http://www.ski-injury.com/

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 03 Mar 2011 #permalink

Oh, and I forgot:

* Old boots deplasticize. I've seen several come apart on the hill. Skiing with one ski and one foot in a boot with no toe can be ... interesting.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 03 Mar 2011 #permalink

I skied a lot every winter as a kid (in Romme that you're tired of), I stopped skiing for some years when work and family took over my life, but this winter I got into snowboarding. Lots of fun, even more so than I remember skiing to be.

But now I figure I'll just rent most stuff instead of buying. I'll do this a few times a year at the most, and getting my own gear for that just isn't worth it. The rental gear I used this winter was really good, and well cared for. Also, that way I don't have to transport a board, boots and other stuff through airports, on buses and so on.

... Old boots deplasticize. I've seen several come apart on the hill.

Indeed.

I am not a ski instructor nor patroller, nor do I play one on TV...

But I am a more-than-slightly obsessive boarder, who's been on the slopes some 40-50 days so far this season, and who has thus ridden a lot of lifts. And when you've see enough shattered 80s-era boots lying in the troughs beneath said lifts, you don't have to be a plastics expert to work out what's going on.

Deb, "shoulder manipulation" -- have you been visiting a chiropractic? That's woo-woo, you know.

DCS, thanks for good info!

Janne, I agree, if I had to go by bus or plane I wouldn't bring my stuff.

But I've never seen any broken ski boots. Maybe the ones sold in Sweden 20 years ago were different somehow.

Well, my husbands old ski boots broke in just that way...and they might have been younger than yours, but he is a quite obsessive skier.

Oh, right! Your hubbie is after all one of the few people who have been friends with David the phys-therapist for about as long as I have, and I remember that those two met on a skiing holiday c. 1983.

"Sweden is shaped like a ski"
It's also shaped like something else that's affected by cold weather!

Bjursås = beaver sauce?!? Where did you dig that up ...

By Hilde Stoltz (not verified) on 04 Mar 2011 #permalink

I'm more into cross-country skiing, partly because I didn't get into skiing as a child (no ski slopes in Florida!) and partly because when I finally did start I was a grad student, and XC gear is much cheaper than downhill gear (not to mention that I could ski for free on the golf course, while downhill skiing involves expensive lift tickets).

I've been using the same gear now for 15 years (it was gear that my father had bought a few years before he died--by then he had moved to a place where ski slopes were more accessible). It has served me well, though I really should replace the boots. We've had an unusually good season in the place where I live.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 04 Mar 2011 #permalink

I stoped skiing when I moved into Umeå -I have no car and the detours to ski tracks and slopes were no fun. Sorry about the kid.
You could distract him from his misery by reading more horror stories from beyond the mountains of madness...
Here are Lovecraft's 10 favourite words:
http://scienceblogs.com/confessions/2011/03/friday_fun_hp_lovecrafts_10…
The easy part about shifting through words instead of soil is that you can let a computer do the heavy lifting and rainy-day work :)

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 04 Mar 2011 #permalink

Hahaha! I just found out why our least favourite troll has been absent from Scienceblogs.com lately! http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/03/twitter_trolls.php
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Do you think "Bjursås" might have had a different, sami name earlier that was changed to a Swedish name that sounded like it (but with a completely unrelated meaning) ? Norrland is full of odd place-names like "Pengsjö" that are really just approximations of what the original sami name was pronounced like.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 04 Mar 2011 #permalink

Yeah, David M is lurching around Twitter these days, poor man.

The name Bjursås is attested from 1468 onward. Originally it was Bjursjöås, a parish name of the common kind that describes the location of the church: in this case, on the ridge next to Beaver Lake. Beaver-lake-ridge. I see no good reason to suppose any Saami original here.

if you must break a bone, break your radius

Yeah, it hurts only half as much as breaking your diameter.

By Phillip IV (not verified) on 04 Mar 2011 #permalink

Wasn't Radius the name of the head robot in R.U.R. ? It's a portent! The Cyberdyne Systems robots are coming to kill you!
Breaking a radius=your son is going to be the real-life John Connors!

(maybe getting too little sleep for a week has some connection to what I am writing? Naah!)

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 04 Mar 2011 #permalink