Pinnacol Assurance and ACL Strong partnerships reduces knee injury claims by half; reduces cost by more than 90%
DENVER, CO – DATE – As Colorado’s ski season kicks off, Pinnacol Assurance, Colorado's leading workers' compensation insurer, is emphasizing the importance of mountain resort worker safety and well-being. With a commitment to safeguarding Colorado communities, Pinnacol partnered with ACL Strong to study how to prevent common and often complex knee injuries.
“A knee injury, especially ACL injuries, can have a lasting effect on a person’s health and career,” says Pinnacol Senior Human Performance Specialist Kevin Simonton. “Mountain resort workers are inherently exposed to ice and snow, and these complex injuries can be accepted as part of the job. Our research shows these injuries can be mitigated with proper conditioning.”
After six weeks of ACL Strong training for 20 minutes/day, 3x/week participants filed half as many claims as non-participants over the course of the study. Injuries that did happen were significantly less severe – in fact, claim costs were reduced by 93% compared with non-participants.
It is also worth noting that none of the lower extremity or knee injuries experienced by ACL Strong participants were attributed to an ACL, a major stabilizing ligament in the knee, known as the anterior cruciate ligament.
Dr. Leslie Desrosiers, founder of ACL Strong injury prevention program for snow-sports notes knee injuries are very costly for mountain resorts. “ACL injuries can cost $80k on average and usually require surgery, ending the season for the injured worker. If employees are not physically prepared for their environment, they are more likely to get hurt. We can make a significant difference by training mountain resort workers more like athletes, enhancing strength, balance, and movement through a strategic process, so they are better prepared and more resilient on mountainous terrain and in winter conditions.”
According to Pinnacol, which reportedly covers one million Colorado workers, knee injuries are the most commonly suffered and the most severe among mountain resort workers. A six-year claims analysis also found:
- The most common injury cause in this industry is falling on ice and snow.
- An average of 59 knee injury claims are filed each year, accounting for 20% of ski-related claims.
- Knee injuries are also the most severe, with an average claim cost of $11-24K.
- Workers suffering a knee injury are out of work an average of 21 days.
Pinnacol data also found that strains from falling, demonstrating drills and shoveling snow are common sources of knee injuries.
“Don’t assume ski workers know how to train themselves. Give them a plan and a process. Our Snow and Beyond course guides them through the exact exercises that will help them get stronger where they need it most, so they avoid injuries,” says Desrosiers.
Pinnacol recommends other risk mitigation measures for resorts:
- Resorts should consistently communicate the risk for slips and falls to employees throughout the season, and how to prevent them. Remember to wear appropriate footwear and walk like a penguin in icy areas.
- Terrain management can create dedicated areas for ski and ride school operations, where they can control the environment for everyone involved.
- Resorts can designate trails for employees who must ski and ride to and from their work areas, and they can also provide alternate modes of transport for employees to these areas, such as riding lifts to work stations.
- For employees who must ski or ride as part of their duties, employers should have policies in place that make expectations clear regarding what kind of skiing/riding is allowed on the clock, such as no jumps or bumps, no terrain park features, as well as equipment use.
- Resorts should conduct ski/ride ability testing for any employee who must ski/ride in order to ensure they can safely navigate the mountain to and from their work shifts.
- Provide ski/snowboard employee skills clinics across all Mountain Ops departments to develop employees' skiing/snowboarding abilities to mitigate ability-related injuries
- Awareness of and adherence to the National Ski Association’s Responsibility Code.
Pinnacol Assurance is Colorado’s largest workers’ compensation insurance carrier. We operate as a mutual insurance company, providing caring coverage for nearly 1 million workers in the state. We focus on saving our customers money through careful rate-setting, general dividends and our award-winning safety programs. You can see our care for Colorado at work through our grantmaking, scholarships, volunteerism and award-winning apprenticeship program and through our championing diversity, equity and inclusion. Learn more at Pinnacol.com.