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Lee celebrates his Silver Jubilee!

A man of many talents, Lee was unsure which career to pursue when leaving school, but experience of physiotherapy after Athletics and Rugby injuries set him on a path from which he would never look back...

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Home > Physio's Blog > Lee's Top Tips for Injury-free Skiing
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Lee's top tips for injury-free skiing

24.01.14 - Planning a skiing holiday is an exciting time. For many, myself included, the promise of (virtually) guaranteed snow, coupled with a few days of activity and mountain air, is a prospect almost as exciting as Christmas dinner!

But nobody likes to have their fun cut short, and I’m often asked if I have any advice for staying injury-free on the slopes. So I've compiled a few tips for avoiding ski and snowboarding injuries.

Of course, the best way to get injured on the slopes is to turn up unfit. Few people give thought to whether they are physically fit and prepared for the rigorous and specific stresses that skiing and snowboarding place on the muscles and joints.

Most people ski for only one or two weeks a year, and in between those periods do very little to replicate exercise in the postures adopted during skiing. “Patella overload” is a common cause of knee pain in skiers, caused by incorrect body alignment and muscle imbalance. This can cause the knee cap (patella) to shift slightly out of position causing pain on squatting or lunging.

I have also seen a rise in ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injuries over recent years, due to changes in the design of ski’s and boots. The ACL is one of the short ligaments that hold the knee together and controls rotation and shear at the knee. It is easily damaged by a severe twist. A slow backwards fall, getting off a chair lift is the most common cause of this in inexperienced skiers and ill fitting bindings can exacerbate this.

To reduce potential risk of injuries, I would advise following my top 10 tips for the ski season: 

  1. Take lessons

Check your alignment and body positioning with a ski coach. Better technique means less strain on your joints.

  1. Bindings check

Make sure the Din setting (which controls how easily the bindings snap open) is appropriate for your weight and ability. When hiring skis know your accurate weight in kgs and be honest about your ability.
  1. Take a rest day

The third day of skiing after 3pm is the point where most accidents occur as muscle fatigue reaches it’s peak 48-hours after you start your holiday.
  1. Take the lift at the end  of the day

You will be tired! The pistes may be icy and crowded and likely to have bare patches in the snow – all a perfect recipe for a fall.
  1. Ski off-peak

Inexperienced skiers should aim for when the slopes are quieter with less dangerous and the need to take sudden evasive action is reduced.
  1. Control your weight and be prepared

Be honest about your weight as this puts extra strain on your joints. Seek advice at least 8 weeks prior to your holiday regarding a preparatory course of strengthening and conditioning exercises from a good physio or personal trainer. (Alderbank Clinic has a partnership with PLM Fitness in Longridge, who can provide such a service).

You can find my list of 'Ski-fit' preparatory strengthening and conditioning exercises here.

  1. Don’t drink alcohol at lunchtime

It slows your reactions and makes you more reckless.
  1. Keep within your comfort zone

Avoid those icy moguls if you already have any damage to your knees. Control is good, bravado is bad.
  1. Seek advice immediately after an injury

Clinics in ski resorts are usually very well versed with treating knee problems. Do not ski with a swollen knee, as this inhibits your muscle control.
  1. Don’t wear a knee brace

Only if you are returning to skiing with an old or partially healed ligament injury should you consider using a hinged brace, or if you have mild arthritis. Otherwise skiing without a brace improves the ability of muscles around the knee to respond effectively to the stresses and strains put upon it.