5 Questions to Think About Before Returning to the Slopes

Ski season time is here and what does that mean? We are all excited about the weekends, a big trip or an upcoming snowstorm to dust off our ski clothes and get back on the mountain. You may be a first-time skier (from 3 years old to 80 years old), a novice skier, a mom who is ready to go back out and ski after a few years hiatus, or an extremely experienced skier. No matter your age, experience level or talent - you can be at risk for an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury while skiing


Skiing is a great sport, however, there is also some risk involved. There are 2-3 injuries per 1000 skiers each day with 43% of all ski injuries involving the knee. Each year 17,500 skiers tear an ACL according to researchers at University of Vermont School of Medicine.


Dr. Fealy at the Hospital for Special Surgery says that he sees a direct correlation with ski season and increased ACL injuries in his practice.


Marla Ranieri, Doctor of Physical Therapy at Drayer Physical Therapy has 5 questions for you to think about and tips to help avoid ACL injuries during this ski season.


Important questions to think about before you hit the slopes:

1.     Is your body ready to ski? Since skiing is a seasonal, recreational sport, many people don't realize the rigorous physical demands that this sport places on their bodies and that they should be training in the off season to ski. Just like any other sport, your body should have appropriate strength, flexibility, motor control and endurance that should be maintained from season to season in order to fully prepare yourself for the slopes. 


2.     Has your body changed since the last time you skied? A lot can change in a year, whether it is a growth spurt that has occurred in an adolescent, a decrease in your workout schedule because of your busy lifestyle, weight gain from maturity, weight loss from stress, or an injury that has altered your daily activities; all of these changes affect the way you move and put you at risk for injury when heading back out onto the slopes.


3.     Do you have any current aches or pains in your body? If your busy lifestyle has caused you to ignore an injury, then you are putting yourself at risk for a more serious injury. The body is like a serious of chains, any ache or pain throughout that chain can have a direct affect to somewhere else on the chain.  When an area of your body is hurting it will cause you to alter your movement patterns which in turn creates compensator patterns (causing muscles to work incorrectly) and putts you at a greater risk for injury.


4.     How are your core strength, hip strength, and balance? Many studies have been conducted showing a direct correlation between weakness in core strength, hip strength and balance and an increased risk for ACL injuries. A strong stable core controls the bodies center of mass allowing increased control of your knees and ankles during athletic movements. Strong hips (glut muscles) control the alignment of your legs and knees decreasing the ability of the knee to "cave in". When the knee caves into a valgus position it puts unnecessary load on the ACL increasing your risk of tear by 80%. Ability to balance on one leg is crucial for decreasing your risk of injury. If you do not have optimal balance strategies than one wrong movement while skiing can throw you off balance and increase your risk of ACL injuries.  


5.     How well do you squat and is your form correct? Since you are basically performing a squat the entire time you are skiing, it is important to understand how to squat and to make sure you are able to squat correctly. Quad dominance (which is a common mistake while squatting) is a known risk factor for ACL injuries, especially in female athletes. Therefore, practicing correct squatting mechanics before you ski is crucial to your knee health.

These questions are meant to help you realize that you should be PREPARING your body to ski and should plan ahead accordingly. 


Physical therapy is the best place to start to gain advice on what to do in preparing your body for exercise and in treating injuries or alignments. Many physical therapists do preventative appointments; they take a look at your functional movement patterns and pick out areas of weakness and deficits, offering exercises and advice on how to fix those areas. They also work on existing injuries to make sure that you are feeling well enough and prepared to go out on the slopes. They can help increase your core stability, hip strength, balance and overall endurance. 


You no longer need a prescription to see a therapist and can start right away via direct access. The best way to find a quality therapist that is in your area and has availabilities is to download betterPT and book an appointment today.

Be proactive, not reactive and avoid a ski injury this year!

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