Category Archives: ski

Hitting the Slopes

Following the first snowfall to hit the GTA and a forecast that’s predicting a very snowy winter, many are groaning and complaining…minus the avid skiers and snowboarders who are eagerly awaiting to hit the slopes. If you’re one of the many who have waited well over six months to dust off your equipment, surely you don’t want to cut your season short with an injury.

Who is at risk?

Research has shown that the risk of injury is higher for the following individuals:

  1. Snowboarders vs. skiers;
  2. Beginners;
  3. Younger participants;
  4. Participants who rent their equipment or use improper equipment;
  5. Athletes with insufficient core strength/muscle imbalances;
  6. Athletes with an underlying injury.

Mechanism of Injuries

  • More experienced skiers sustain an injury related to jumps, while beginners sustain injuries related to falls;
  • Snowboarders are 3x more likely to experience injuries related to jumps, while only 10% of injuries are related to collisions (with objects or other people);
  • Skiers will likely injure their knees due to sudden changes in direction of the legs in regards to the torso;
  • Skiers tend to injure their knees following these distinct mechanisms:
    • The slip-catch: where the outer ski catches the inside edge, forcing the knee into internal rotation and valgus;
    • Landing from a jump with most of their weight back, the skier will land with their knee extended and the boot heel will catch the snow;
    • During forward falling positions when the inside edge of the ski engages the snow.

Common Injuries

While skiers and snowboarders share the slopes, they have very different injury patterns across all skill levels. Skiers will typically injure their lower body, specifically their knees, while snowboarders are more likely to injure their upper body, especially their wrists.

Knees:

Skiers are more likely to injure their knees than snowboarders do, with a prevalence rate of between 30-50%. Injuries generally occur following a traumatic event (i.e., falls, collisions, sudden changes in direction and twisting accidents). Injuries include meniscus and ligament tears (especially to the ACL and MCL), osteochondral lesions and occasional muscle strains and fractures. Overuse injuries are also common in skiers, with patellar tendinopathy being the most common.

Ankles:

Ankle injuries, such as sprains and fractures, are more common in snowboarders due to boots that do not fit properly. Skiers are less likely to have injuries to the ankle due to the higher and stiffer boot.

Skiers Thumb:

Injury to the ligaments on the inside of the thumb is common in skiers following an incident where the thumb gets caught in the strap of a ski pole or the snow.

Wrist Injuries:

20-40% of snowboarding injuries occur at the wrist, with the majority being fractures following a fall on an outstretched hand. Wearing wrist guards can significantly decrease the risk of injuries to the wrist.

Concussions:

HIgh speeds, acrobatic movements, falls and risk of collision make both skiing and snowboarding high risk sports for concussions. Studies have shown that concussions account for 20% of all ski and snowboarding injuries. While helmets prevent skull fractures and facial injuries, the research is inconclusive as to whether or not it helps in the prevention of concussions.

Prevention Strategies

  1. Lessons:

Lessons with a skilled instructor will dramatically reduce the risk of injury to beginners and novices.

  1. Education:

Research has shown that a large number of injuries are a result of poor decision making and risky behaviours, especially in younger, inexperienced athletes. Be sure to ski and snowboard within your limits, with regards to terrain, speed and experience. Cusimano et al (2012) examined whether an instructional safety video and handout could minimize the risk of injury in young, novice skiers and snowboarders. Their education video included basic information about helmet use, equipment, trail and terrain sign interpretation, and emergency procedures. The study had promising results by demonstrating that a little bit of knowledge and education goes a long way in preventing injuries.

  1. Conditioning:

These sports require a combination of strength, balance and endurance. Embarking on a week-long ski trip, following a year of being sedentary, will increase your chances of suffering an injury. Proper conditioning prior to the start of the ski season/trip will help prepare the appropriate muscles. Furthermore, overuse injuries can generally be prevented with proper conditioning.

  1. Equipment:

Ensure your equipment is safe, fits well and is appropriate for your skill level.

  1. Snow conditions/weather/course conditions

While these factors are out of your control, be aware of the conditions prior to skiing/snowboarding (i.e., poor visibility, technical/challenging runs, fatigue, etc.) and make smart choices as to when you should get off the slopes.

Don’t get stuck sitting in the chalet sipping hot cocoa while you heal an injury. Follow some of these tips and enjoy the slopes this winter

Cusimano et al., (2012). Evaluation of ski and snowboard injury prevention program. International Journal of Injury control and Safety Promotion.

Mayr et al., (2016). Prevention of Injuries and Overuse in Sports Directory for Physicians, Physiotherapists, Sports Scientists and Coaches.

Book Your Appointment

Questions? Contact us

Ski Injury Prevention

Great Article by Elizabeth Quinn

Strength and Conditioning Exercises to Prevent Ski and Snowboard Injuries

Downhill skiing and snowboarding can result in both serious and minor injuries if you aren’t prepared. Skiers and snowboarders often require specific conditioning and workout routines to not only perform better and prevent fatigue, but to help reduce the risk of injury on the slopes.

Strength, flexibility, endurance and agility drills for skiers and boarders are essential for both recreational and the expert skiers. Most skiers return to the slopes after months away. While some athletes participate in other sports during the off-season to stay in shape, many are weekend warriors. No matter what type of a skier you are, you could wind up with minor aches, pains or a serious injury if you don’t spend a little time preparing for the demands of your sport.

Skiing and boarding require both technical and physical skills including strength, endurance, agility and balance.

Muscular Strength

Muscular strength improves your ability to relax and still maintain control, while making quick adjustments needed on uneven terrain. All the major muscle groups of the body, especially the core, are used for skiing. A great strength exercises is a single leg squat. A second great strength exercise is a weighted quadriceps squat.

Explosive Power

When strength training is combined with speed, quickness and agility training, power is developed and expert level skiers are born. Exercises that create power include:

  • plyometrics
  • sprinting
  • agility drills
  • weighted step ups
  • hill or stair running

Plyometrics are commonly referred to as explosive types of exercise drills often used in the conditioning program for skiers along with weight training because the combination of squatting and cycling develops the quality leg and hip power necessary for high performance skiing. One great exercise is to stand on a bench or box (12 inches or so), jump down and then immediately back up. Do this 10-30 seconds at a time, rest and repeat. Experts can try to do one-leg jumps.

Flexibility

The best stretches for skiers and boarders focus on the lower extremities and snow boarders need to stretch the upper body as well. One great core stretch is a core twist. Stand with your knees slightly bent and your arms crossed in front of you. Slowly look over one shoulder and let your whole body follow until you feel a good stretch in the back and side. Hold 5 seconds and repeat in the other direction. Hamstring and Quadriceps stretches are also recommended for skiers.

Endurance

For cardiovascular endurance good preparation exercises include: road, mountain or stationary biking. It build the heart and lungs and focuses on the leg muscles used during skiing. To Warm-up with an easy spin of 5 minutes and then add high intensity efforts (sprint) for about 30 seconds. Spin easy for a minutes and repeat 2-5 times depending upon your fitness level. Cool down about 5 minutes and you have a great workout.

Technical Skills

Technical skills start with lessons from a certified Physiotherapist.

Balance Training

Working on balance can include one-legged squats or work on balance boards.

Agility Exercise

To improve side to side agility stand in a relaxed half squat position and step quickly side-to-side (maintain the squat). As you improve, jump side-to-side keeping the inside foot off the ground and the focus of your weight on your outside foot/inside edge. Perform for 30 seconds, rest and repeat several times.

Plyometric Exercise

Many fitness experts use plyometric exercise to build power and speed, improve coordination and agility and effectively improve performance. It is important to point out that plyometrics, if performed incorrectly by the wrong individuals, can increase the risk of injury.

ACL Injury Prevention Training Program

While this ACL injury prevention program was designed for soccer players, the training routine, principles and concepts apply very closely to skiing and snowboarding expert terrain.

This ACL Prevention Training has been discussed in a previous Blog – see earlier.

Consider adding this great warm up to your training program before you head to the slopes.

Take a look at these great video posts by Austrailian Sports Physiotherapists Randall Cooper and Andrew Wynd of their top 10 tips for the prevention of alpine skiing related injuries.
Click here.

If you are interested in finding out more or get proper training tips from a certified Physiotherapist with Alpine experience, Contact Sheddon Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic at 905-849-4576.

By Dana Clark