Downhill skiing is a ton of fun, but there are several common injuries that crop up with this sport. Perhaps the most common is the infamous skier’s toe. Typically discovered at the end of the day, “skier’s toe” shows up as a very painful BLACK TOENAIL- usually the great toe. The medical term is a subungual hematoma, which simply means below the nail bleeding. This can occur from a single instance of trauma like dropping something on your toe, or from small, repetitive trauma like a too-small or too-big (so your foot slams back and forth) ski boot. As the tiny amount of blood builds up under the nail, the pressure escalates and the toe throbs.
The good news is that this can be quickly remedied in a clinic if you head in within hours or a day of noticing the black nail. If you wait several days trying to tough it out, we have less success treating the nail. The doctor typically burns a tiny hole in the nail, which allows the drop or two of blood to come out. (Sorry for the yucky description, but that’s what we do.) Ski resort doctors usually have a cool handheld device that does the burning, while other doctors (and D-I-Y’s, though I do NOT recommend this- partly because many people faint at the sight) use an unfolded paper clip with a heated end from holding it in a flame.
The BETTER news is that again, PREVENTION is key! Make sure your ski boots fit properly- don’t cram your foot into a friend’s boots- and be sure your socks are not bunched up. This painful injury does NOT occur if your shoes/boots fit correctly!
BOTTOM LINE: Make sure your ski boots and socks fit properly to avoid getting skier’s toe, and if you DO get it, seek treatment as soon as possible!
PS And please, don’t forget your HELMET when you SKI!