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Students' Physical Injuries During Lessons

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Has anyone had experience with their students getting injured during their lesson? Even with the best laid lesson plans, correct terrain selection, and instruction/precautions, students will occasionally find a way to injure themselves during our lessons.

How do you handle it emotionally/psycholgically? On the one end of the continuum, it upsets me to no end to see anyone hurt, especially someone enjoying their vacation. On the other end, skiing can be an inherently risky sport; the activity releases state that. Furthermore, many of our students arrive at our resorts woefully out of condition and unprepared for a full day's physcial activity. It really upsets me to have students injured during lessons and sets in motion a whole series of "What if's" and "If only I would have..."

I'd appreciate any thoughts on how you get past these issues in your classes. It can really ruin an otherwise great day.
post #2 of 9
There shouldn't be any "what if's". Choose your terrain carefully. Taking risks is not for lessons, it's for them to do afterwards. If you see risky behaviour or habits, nail them early. I had a girl taken out from behind by a member of the public this season. I left her on the side of the run with her friends, zoomed off and got patrol, got her down, sent the largest boys off to get the perp's name and details, and filled in an accident report form. You will have to justify the terrain you were on and any activities you are doing, so bear that in mind at all times. if it's run of the mill, then you have nothing to worry about. Planning takes care of most risks, and then all that remain are those you can't predict or prevent. All you can do then is deal with the results sensibly and with least stress to the injured person, and give all possible details to your employer.
post #3 of 9
Sorry, Ant, but the rule that I've always seen regarding an injured student, regardless the circumstances, is that the instructor stays with the student until the patrol arrives. Leaving an injured student on the side of a trail, even with friends or family, would be grounds for dismissal.

"One of the largest boys" should have been sent to report the accident, NEVER to confront the "perp" or get involved in the investigation of the accident.

[ February 22, 2004, 09:55 PM: Message edited by: David7 ]
post #4 of 9
I have taught skiing for "decades" and I can count the significant injuries of students on less fingers than I have on one hand. None had to do with terrain choice. All had to do with the fickle finger of fate. Every one of the incidents left me wracked with guilt about what I shoulda, oughta, coulda done. Everyone recovered, thank God, and is still skiing.

ant, I have to agree with David--the instructor stays with the injured student under any circumstances and allows the patrol to handle the first aid, interviews, and apprehension of suspects.
post #5 of 9
Originally posted by SnowWriter:
Has anyone had experience with their students getting injured during their lesson? Even with the best laid lesson plans, correct terrain selection, and instruction/precautions, students will occasionally find a way to injure themselves during our lessons.
I once had a lesson from a maniac in Norway, during which I broke a rib and my girlfriend got frozen shoulder. I'd had about 3 or 4 days on skis before this, but was put into an intermediate group because there were not enough people to fill a group at the necessary level. The lesson started off as a rather exhilarating experience, with me pushing myself to keep up with the others and everyone being challenged by an instructor who evidently believed in the 'deep end' approach. It all came off the rails rather when we did the ski jump...

post #6 of 9
SnowWriter I commend you for asking for information and support on a difficult issue. Here are are some things I've thought about and learned, relative to my students being injured. Some of them are elementary (but I mean no condescension in including them) while others have been hard won by experience transferred as well from my summer profession as an outdoor educator:

As an instructor, I'm a risk manager first in a sport full of internal and external variables. I can't eliminate risk but strive to minimize it in conscious partnership with my students as well as those I work for and with. (The fascinating subject of "actual vs. perceived risk" with all it implicates for "edgework" by my students as I coach them I leave for another thread.)

While many accidents seem to occur "out of the blue" or due to some deficiency on the part of my students, many often are the result of a chain of decisions (mine and others) around these variables in which multiple factors contribute to an injury. The fact that my students may be unfit, unprepared or unskilled is a given (it's why they're here!), necessitating inclusion of this as a variable I assess and manage. My state of mind, physical conditioning, energy and endurance level, etc. also affects my decision-making in my alpine classroom.

While training and experience can serve to minimize injuries, these don't always help. An interesting effect can occur called "risk homeostasis" in which more time on the hill may mean the development of overconfidence which can lead to flawed assessment and decision-making. Sometimes certification or promotion, if it occurs quickly in a career without enough teaching mileage, can have this effect as well.

The capacity to diligently assess risk, manage it and introspect afterwards (no matter how painful that introspection might be) is essential. So is assuming responsibility where it's due, as well as understanding what's beyond my control. And finally, listening to intuition, even if it doesn't seem supported by fact, is well worth cultivating, along with consciously assessing and minimizing my own ego needs as well as the pressures I may perceive from the culture I'm working in.

In my years as an outdoor educator, I've seen a fair number of people leave as well as be counselled out of the field because this burden is too great.

Blah, blah, blah. What does this all mean if a student in your class just tore their ACL, or worse? It feels terrible and of course you feel terrible. I empathize with you. We're not perfect beings. It's like a loss of innocence even if with all your introspection you find you've had no part. Like nolo, I can count on one hand the injuries to my students in my years of teaching. While no injuries were major and all are skiing again I still remember each one, and it's painful to do so. I hold these memories along with the lessons learned very closely. I don't get past them, but I've accepted and learned from them.

In exchange for the opportunity to pursue this wonderful profession, we're ongoing students of risk management. At any given time in our careers we should strive to know what we know, and know what we don't.
post #7 of 9
I agree with Nolo and Vera. And I feel that any injuries in my group are unacceptable. That notwithstanding, I had three (not major, but substantial) in my group at ESA. They were all unacceptable to me. Only one of them might have been prevented with some hindsight (but I'm not sure even in that one). Nevertheless that action I might have taken will be taken in the future. The other two were not, I think, directly within my control. And still, I feel that I could have done something better to prevent it. The upshot is that I carry even more care into the future.

Interesting, for me, that these were the first ones I've had within memory's range.

Having said all that, I believe, although I can't ski for them, that I will sure as hell try to manage their risk. It's a bit like raising kids. We could have no risk if we didin't go.
post #8 of 9
Weems, as one of your group at ESAII, I have to say that I don't see how any of the 3 injuries could have been your fault. Honestly. All 3 were beyond foreseeable, and blame should be on the surprises Snowbird throws at the skier, if anywhere.
post #9 of 9
Thanks, Sean. I don't think any were my fault either. And I'm glad you don't as well. I'm also quite pleased with everyone in our group being both compassionate and responsible. David Polaner had a a great comment: "That's why they call them accidents."

However, although I'm not beating myself up,this is what you learn as an instructor: From here on out I will be more insistent and vocal from the beginning about the idea of giving each other lots of breathing room while skiing together--especially while passing. It may not have changed the dynamics here, but at least I would have said that extra thing, thrown out that extra caution.

We did have a talk about all the surprises from the terrain at Snowbird. And the difficulty is to create caution, but not fear. It's a question of getting a proper read on where the line is, and paying attention ALL THE TIME.

Even when they're not your fault, you replay them, and try to figure out a different way of doing things. This is just part of the job.
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