Winter Sports Knee Injuries. Mr Paul Sutton answers the FAQs…

Mr Paul Sutton, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and member of Sheffield Orthopaedics Ltd (SOL)
Claremont Clinics: Tuesday AM & PM / Thursday AM & Evening


Every year thousands of Brits head to the Alps, Pyrenees or even further afield with popular ski destinations now including Bulgaria, Slovenia and the Scandinavian countries. Many skiers and snowboarders describe their winter sports break as an opportunity to exercise outside with friends and family, in beautiful mountain scenery. Most people return from a winter sports break feeling re-energised, however, the unlucky few return to the UK with an injury.

Skiing and snowboarding involve moving at significant speeds over uneven surfaces on steep slopes and even those who are experienced are at risk of injury. The nature and extent of injuries people sustain while participating in winter sports is variable and can involve almost any part of the body. Accurate data on skiing injury rates is not easily available and it’s unclear what proportion of skiers or snowboarders do sustain an injury.  Of the injuries sustained while skiing or snowboarding an injury to the knee is one of the most common.

Knee injuries may be divided into those involving the bones themselves (fractures) and those involving the ‘soft’ tissues.




  • These are common skiing injuries
  • They cause immediate swelling, pain and difficulty walking
  • After injury these symptoms need investigating with x-rays.
  • Most fractures should be splinted by a local hospital/clinic as a temporary treatment
  • It usually safe to return home for definitive treatment
  • At Claremont Private Hospital we can fully assess. Investigate and treat these injuries.

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These are usually ligament injuries and are far more common than fractures. Ligaments are soft tissue structures that connect the bones of a joint together helping to make the joint stable. At the knee there are several ligaments that may be injured but in skiing and snowboarding damage to the medial ligament, Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) or both are particularly common. Injuries to the cartilages (Meniscal tissue) can also occur in skiing and snowboarding.


  • These are common skiing injuries but are less common with boarding.
  • This injury is often more painful several hours later with pain on the inner side of the knee.
  • There is usually very little swelling
  • Most of these knee injuries just need treatment with time and physiotherapy.
  • None of these injuries need emergency treatment.
  • A small number of these injuries, called a grade 3 injury are more serious.
  • Grade 3 injuries are associated with a feeling of instability in the knee.
  • Grade 3 injuries need a careful assessment and treatment with a specialist
  • At Claremont Private Hospital we can offer both specialist assessment of these injuries and expert physiotherapy.

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  • These are common skiing or snowboarding injuries and happen with a twisting mechanism.
  • They often cause a popping or snapping sensation in the knee.
  • The knee will swell, and this usually happens very quickly.
  • It is usually difficult to walk normally on the injured knee.
  • This type of injury needs early assessment and an x-ray to rule out a fracture.
  • You should not undergo emergency to treat an ACL injury.
  • These injuries need careful assessment and treatment by a specialist on return to the UK
  • Not all ACL injuries need surgery, but many will do.
  • Surgery is best delayed until after the acute knee injury has settled down.
  • At Claremont Private Hospital we have specialist knee surgeons who are very experienced in treating this injury and can offer expert advice and keyhole ACL surgery when it is needed.

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  • These are properly called Meniscal tears and are usually cause by a twisting injury
  • In older people the meniscus may tear because it is already ‘worn’, called a degenerate tear.
  • A degenerate tear can happen with only a very minor injury (which can be forgotten).
  • There is a meniscus on the inner (medial) and outer (lateral) side of the knee.
  • Pain will be felt on the inner or outer side of the according to which meniscus is damaged.
  • Some meniscal tears get stuck out of place preventing full movement, called a ‘locked knee’.
  • If you have a locked knee or you are young you need a specialist opinion on return to the UK.
  • The pain from a degenerate meniscal tear will often get better without treatment.
  • If a degenerate meniscal tear causes persistent symptoms keyhole surgery will often help.
  • At Claremont Private Hospital our specialist knee surgeons would assess the injury, offer expert treatment advice and when needed keyhole surgery.

Read more here


A private consultation with Mr Sutton at Claremont costs £200 if you don’t have health insurance. For more information or to book an appointment, just call our Private Patient Team on 0114 263 2114. 

Copyright Paul Sutton, 2020

Date: 09/03/2020
By: Paula