Are you planning on hitting the ski slopes this winter? If so, you should probably start training now. Skiing is an excellent aerobic activity with many health benefits but it also requires a great deal of skill and conditioning. Not only do you require hand and eye coordination to navigate any rougher terrain, but you also need a strong core to keep your back straight, strong knees and legs to keep you upright, excellent balance, and strong arms for steering.

Common Skiing Injuries

The knees are the most common area of the body to sustain an injury related to skiing. The knee is made up of four main

parts: bone (tibia, femur and patella), cartilage (articulate and meniscus), muscle (hamstring in the front and quadriceps in the back), and ligaments (Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL), Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), Lateral Collateral Ligament(LCL), and the Coronary Ligament.

The two most common skiing injuries are MCL tears and ACL tears. The MCL rests on the outside of the inner aspect of the knee joint, attaching the tibia to the femur. It aids in stability and strength of the knee. The ACL is actually a crossing ligament that attaches the back side of the tibia to the front of the femur. It keeps the knee from essentially falling forward. It also aids in twisting and rotation of the knee.  Of the two the MCL tear is the most commonly seen. This is a partial or full rupture of the MCL. This usually occurs when the ski tips are pointed towards each other as they attempt to stop. ACL tears are generally the result of one of two things: either from landing a ski jump with too much weight into the back of the heel where the boot pushes into the calf excessively or when a skier tries to stand up when falling to try to avoid a full fall.

Other injuries include meniscus tears, ligament strains and knee sprain. All of these injuries are characterized by pain and swelling in the knee. Diagnosing a tear requires an MRI scan to visualize the ligaments. Surgery is necessary for repairing a torn ligament and several months of physical therapy is recommended to regain strength and mobility.

Injury Prevention

Skiing is meant to be fun but you also need to make sure you are taking appropriate safety measures. Make sure your clothing is appropriate. Ski suits are meant to be form-fitting to avoid getting caught on your equipment, while also having enough room that you can freely bend your legs and twist your hips. Clothing that is too big or too small can be hazardous to you and your fellow skiers. Also, be sure to inspect your equipment before using it. Your skis should be free of splinters, breaks or soiling. Clean, intact skis are the only skis you should be using.

Obviously, a major way to reduce your chance of injury is to use proper technique on the slopes. When trying to slow or stop, make sure your weight is balanced when your toes are pointed forward. When landing, make sure weight is shifted more forward towards the toes. Also, start with small jumps first. Don’t leave the bunny slope if you are still not comfortable with standard movements. You should never take on a slope that is too advanced for you.

How to Start Your Training

Working with a physical therapist now is an optimal strategy for being ski slope ready next season. Your trainer will evaluate your current physical condition and identify key weaknesses that may leave you susceptible to injury. These areas will be the focus of your training to ensure you are strong enough to handle the slopes safely. In general, exercises will work on your range of motion, balance, strength, and conditioning.

Ready to Get Started?

Our team of therapists are standing by and ready to get you primed for the slopes. Call Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab today at (570) 208-2787 and let’s get started!

– Dr. Jesse G. Yurko