In my younger days, I spent a few seasons working in ski resorts, and if I wasn’t a physio with a young family, I’d now be a ‘ski bum’……fact. There’s nothing I love more than being outside in the fresh, mountain air, whilst skiing freely through beautiful, soft, snow.
However, the older I get and the more ski injuries I see coming into the clinic, the more aware I am of the risks and possible ski injuries. So, with the ski season upon us and the amazing amounts of fresh snow dumped down recently, I thought I would go through some ski injuries I have seen both on the slopes and in the clinic, and give you some tips on how best to avoid them.
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury:
The ACL is an important ligament for knee stability and it can often be torn skiing due to the mechanism of a twisted knee on a planted foot. A key factor in prevention is ensuring your ski bindings are set correctly. If someone else does this for you in a rental shop, be honest when they ask you your body weight. This is how they know where to set the bindings to ensure your boot pops off the ski when the ski is stuck in snow etc. This can prevent a twisting injury to your knee and ultimately prevent a 6-9 months rehab post ACL reconstruction.
- Anterior knee pain:
This is a very common ski complaint. People often complain of knee pain when they are tired towards the end of the ski day. This can purely be due to muscle weakness/fatigue and can be prevented by doing some general leg and core strengthening in the lead up to your trip. Simple leg muscle strengthening ideas can initially include exercises such as squats, lunges, dead lifts and step ups. Once you have developed a base strength, you can then progress to more challenging, functional movements. Examples include single leg squats, jumping on / off platforms or unstable surfaces and balancing on unstable surfaces (e.g. Bosu ball) whilst doing an upper limb movement. These functional exercises incorporate core strengthening and will help to develop a strong and stable trunk, allowing your legs to produce powerful dynamic movements off of a stable base.
N.B. When undertaking any new strength and conditioning exercises, it is a good idea to be trained in the correct technique by a professional (i.e. physio, or personal trainer). This prevents you adopting incorrect technique, which can potentially lead to injury.
- Arm or neck pain:
When people complain of arm / neck pain when holding and using poles, again this can be solely down to weakness and fatigue. This can be avoided by including some upper body strengthening in your pre trip, ski conditioning. Examples can include; shoulder press, chest press, lat pull downs, rows, bicep curls, triceps extensions etc. Also, remember to always consider your posture, exactly like you would when working at a computer. Try not to poke your chin out in concentration. Try and maintain a straight, stable spine (future blog on posture to come).
Concussion is ‘a disturbance of the brain resulting from forces transmitted to it’ (RFU). My advice here is simple – wear a helmet. It seems crazy to me that it is not a legal requirement these days. In the same way you wouldn’t go on your road bike without a helmet, don’t take a chance skiing. Why would you? It doesn’t even need to be a big fall to cause serious brain injuries.
Other injuries I have witnessed on my time in the mountains include:
- A fractured femur (big thigh bone). This particular friend, a snowboarder, had to be airlifted to hospital and had major, life-saving surgery within hours. My advice – don’t snowboard 😉
- A dislocated shoulder. This friend knew she had an unstable shoulder and bought exam revision with her on our ski trip ‘in case she dislocated her shoulder’. My advice – don’t snowboard 😉
- A fractured vertebra in the spine. My advice – don’t do back-flips in the park (on a snowboard) 😉
- Take your equipment seriously – make sure your ski bindings are set correctly and always wear a helmet.
- In the weeks leading up to a ski trip, make sure to do some strengthening, including a variety of functional, lower and upper body and core exercises.
- Ski, don’t snowboard. Although my little brother would disagree, skiing is much cooler 😎!!!
Thanks very much for reading and if you enjoyed this blog, keep an eye out for my future winter sport blogs coming in the next month exploring the winter Olympics and Paralympics in Pyeongchang 2018.