A week or two on the slopes is a great way to unwind – good exercise, beautiful scenery, clean mountain air, not to mention a gluhwein or two.
But let’s not forget that skiing and snowboarding are both dangerous sports. And while there are limits to how much you can do to prevent trauma injuries – the results of being blindsided by an out-of-control speed-freak for instance – some ski injuries are either preventable, or their impact can be reduced.
I’m not talking about safety equipment (helmet, wrist guards etc) or the importance of learning to fall correctly. After all, if you’re any sort of skier, you know that already.
However, many of the skiing injuries that I see in the clinic are preventable. Knees are the most common, normally from a twisting injury while turning, often from catching the inside of your ski, causing your knee to collapse inwards, risking serious damage to the medial ligament, medial meniscus and the anterior cruciate ligament.
They’re preventable because the underlying cause is a lack of stability and/or strength around important joints, poor technique or a combination of all 3 plus the fatigue factor.
Prevention generally comes down to one or more of of 4 things:
1. Better technique
2. Stronger quadriceps to support the knee and give better control on jumps, bumps and turns
3. Better balance/reactions to deal with the uneven ground
4. Better overall fitness so that come the end of the day, you’re still carving your turns cleanly
Point 1, I can’t help with, but a good ski instructor can. But below are some exercises that will help with points 2 – 4. For meaningful results, aim to start at least four weeks before your holiday.
Squat holds on a wall
With your back against the wall move your feet forwards and keep them hip width apart, bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold for up to 1 minute. Repeat 5 times.
Standing facing up the stair, rise up and down onto 1 leg 15 times (make sure you control the dewscent). Repeat on the other side
Jump from a step and land with your weight evenly on both sides, aiming to land as lightly and quietly as possible. 10 reps. (Challenge yourself either by jumping from an increased height and/or trying to jump further away.)
Using a balance board or bosu is a great way to improve your balance, if you don’t have one, do the exercises standing on a thick pillow/cushion.
– Start standing on both legs and find your stable balance point for 20 secs
– Progress to 1 leg, try to stay as still as possible for 20 seconds. If you’re struggling, try doing it beside a wall, with 1 finger against the wall for stability.
– Bilateral squat holds (best on a bosu), stand with your weight through your heels and evenly distributed on both legs. Soften your knees and drop into a squat position; hold still for 15 seconds then return. Repeat 5 times
If you find these easy, try closing your eyes (but start on a flat surface first).
Any cross training will help you before your ski trip, particularly if you have been inactive. Running, cycling, stepper, and x-trainer are all good choices for the months leading up to your holiday.