It all depends on the bone that is (or might be) broken, and on the overall condition of the patient.
- Call an ambulance for a fractured skull, vertebra or hip.
- Call an ambulance for open fractures (bone piercing through the skin).
- Call an ambulance if the patient is/has been unconscious or under shock.
- Call an ambulance if you are not sure whether you need one.
- Call an ambulance if the patient requests it.
Do not move the patient any more than necessary. Especially, if you suspect a spinal injury (broken vertebra), absolutely avoid moving the patient unless strictly necessary to save their life. If you are unsure, call 911 (North America), 112 (Europe) or the local equivalent; they will instruct you what to do.
Secure the accident site if necessary, stay with the patient. Give first aid for any additional conditions (if any), comfort them, make sure they remain conscious, get a blanket to keep them warm if necessary, help them look after their belongings, direct the ambulance to the patient.
It may be OK to take the patient to a hospital on your own if all of the following are true:
- The broken bone is just a limb and not under stress while sitting (arm, shoulder, collarbone, foot, possibly tibia or fibula)
- No other complications are present
- The patient can move without additional pain
- The patient agrees
Get the patient to the nearest hospital (urgent care should be sufficient for cases that don’t require an ambulance) or suitable physician. If necessary, they will refer the patient to wherever adequate care can be given. Ski areas often have a specialized doctor in most villages, or even a sports clinic; the same may be true for other areas where outdoor sports are common.
From my own experience, most with ski accidents:
- Once a skier asked me to help her up because she couldn’t get up on her own. That turned out to be a bad decision, as it turned a partial femur head fracture into a full one. Lesson learned: if the patient cannot or will not get up on their own, tell them to stay put and get help.
- Another time I came to a site where someone had a knee injured. Her husband had already attempted to splint her knee with her ski poles and attempted to get her up. Same mistake as above, we ended up getting help.
- Yet another time, someone fell on her wrist. She was still OK to ski carefully and I accompanied her to the doctor, who then determined a radius fractured near the wrist.
I know of several skiers who skied downhill with leg or vertebra fractures which were not discovered until they got to the doctor’s. Certainly not recommended if you suspect that kind of injury.
Last but not least: if you feel you might need this kind of knowledge, consider taking a first aid course.