Knee injuries are a fact of life in any sport. However, knee injuries have become an inherent risk of skiing, with more than 20,000 sustained each year by skiers in the U. S. alone. "Although the newer releasable ski bindings have reduced the incidence of knee injuries, knee injuries still rank supreme in the sport of skiing", according to Dr. Joshua Siegel, Sports Medicine Director at Access Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics
in Exeter, New Hampshire. Most problems can be attributed to "pilot error," so preventing an injury requires taking an active role in your own safety. This means educating yourself about the circumstances that can lead to knee injuries and paying attention to the first signs of potential danger when skiing.
You have a responsibility as a skier. Be aware of the risks involved, use common sense and follow these simple tips to ensure fun and safe days on the slopes.
Preparing for Your Trip
On the Slopes
- Shape up. Begin a skiing-specific fitness program several months prior to ski season. Swimming, bicycling and rowing use similar muscles and build endurance, as well as strength. Weight training, with a particular focus on the thigh muscles, will complement your aerobic training. Two months before ski season, consider enrolling in a plyometric program. Plyometric training will improve muscular contractions through jumping and bounding exercises to increase your strength and speed.
- Stretch to improve flexibility. Focus on exercises that target hips, thigh, and lower leg muscles. Strength and balance are essential for skiers.
- Learn proper technique from a trained professional. The more refined your skills, the better you can maintain balance and control and avoid injury.
- Maintain your equipment. Whether you rent or own your skis, make sure the release mechanisms on the ski bindings are properly adjusted and tested.
- Proper boot fit. If your boots are uncomfortable, you may be inclined to unbuckle them in order to ski without pain. This could result in a dramatic reduction in your ability to control your skis, increasing the possibility for accidents.
- Beware of the chair lift. Pay attention! Failing to concentrate when getting off a chair lift could earn you a trip off the mountain – on a stretcher.
- Learn the art of falling. To avoid a dangerous fall, put your arms forward and your skis together. Do not fully straighten your legs when you fall; keep them flexed. Do not try to get up until you stop sliding.
- Wear a knee brace. Ask your doctor if a brace could provide your knee with greater stability and proper alignment.
- Avoid high risk behavior. Do not ski beyond your ability. Take only the risks with which you feel comfortable.
Recognize when you're fatigued. When fatigue sets in, your concentration starts to falter and accidents can occur. Exercise common sense and understand your physical limits.
- Routinely correct poor skiing technique. It can suffer when you are tired. Stay alert and in control.
- Keep your knees bent. Most knee injuries occur when you try to slow down if you hit a patch of ice or encounter an unexpected obstacle. Natural reflexes cause you to straighten your knees – making them more prone to twisting and hyperextension injuries.
There are many ways you can take an active role in greatly reducing your risk of injury on the slopes. This means making common sense decisions that will reduce the likelihood of injury, even if it is to stay on easier trails on days when your skills are not up to par. Following these knee-specific safety tips in addition to more general safety guidelines such as wearing a helmet, can help ensure you'll be able to enjoy many days of fun on the slopes.