As the Canadian winter approaches our usual dreams of beach vacations have fallen victim to the post-COVID reality. So Canadians are looking for activities to break the winter blues right here at home. One trip to your local ski shop and you will see crowds of people have come to the same conclusion. 2020 is the year that everyone gets out on the slopes. Equipment is flying off the shelves. Resorts are preparing for increased demand. It makes perfect sense. Skiing is an outdoor sport with plenty of space.
My name is Adam Brown. I am co-founder of Cornerstone Physiotherapy in Toronto, an experienced Physiotherapist, ski instructor and lifelong skier. Every physiotherapist knows that a surge in skiers will fill clinics with injuries. We also know that a bit of preparation goes a long way to preventing these injuries. But it’s too late when the snow flies. Successful preparation takes several weeks. So get started now to ensure an injury free season. Here are a few of the most common injuries new skiers face and how to avoid them.
Skiing well requires good ankle mobility. It creates a lot of strain on the achilles tendon. Our tendons slowly adapt to the load we place on them. An offseason of neglect results in an achilles tendon that is relatively weak.
Achilles loading exercises.
This exercise stresses the tendon safely. Within 4 to 6 weeks it will make your tendon stronger and ski ready. The exercise should be done with the knee straight and bent.
Pro Tip – Make sure your ski boots have the right amount of stiffness (referred to as “flex”) for your weight and skiing ability. A boot that is too soft will produce more strain on the achilles for an advanced skier.
Just like our tendons, the fascia in our foot is only strong and mobile if your workout routine requires it. The achilles exercise above will help with tensile strength but to improve mobility do this stretch.
Pro Tip – Ski boots can be unforgiving. Your local ski shop can add a foot bed to improve support, comfort and performance.
The number one complaint from skiers is anterior knee pain, and most of it comes from the patellofemoral joint. Standing with the knees slightly flexed while skiing places a lot of load on the joint between your kneecap and thigh bone (femur). If your leg alignment is poor, you can count on some pain.
Improve alignment with good hip strength
Skiing requires strong and mobile hip joints. The more advanced the skier, the stronger you need to be. If you frequent black diamond runs check out the pre-season training program below. If you tend to stick to blues and greens try this exercise. It will amp up your hip strength and improve your alignment while carving turns.
Pro Tip – Expert skiers steer using the hip joint, not the knees. As a simple rule, your toes and kneecaps should be facing the same direction at all times. A lesson with an expert instructor can make a world of difference to tune up your form and prevent injuries.
Beginner skiers often tear their groin or hip adductor muscles. This happens when one ski goes off in its own direction and your legs are forced apart. Skiers refer to this as “catching an edge”. Obviously you want to avoid this happening, but if it does, a well prepared body will be resilient.
-Lateral walk against band.
Pro tip – if you are new to skiing, have your ski shop detune the first 4-6 inches of your edges. This will reduce the chances of catching an edge.
Skiing is responsible for a lot of torn ACL’s. An ACL (or anterior cruciate ligament) tear is a serious injury. It will end your season abruptly. Many require surgical reconstruction and 9 months of rehab.
-Hip strength – beginners can use the step-up exercise above, and advanced skiers should consider the pre-season training program below.
-Stick to terrain you can ski comfortably. Trauma tends to happen when we bite off more than we can chew.
-New skiers should stay on groomed surfaces – Loose or deep snow is more risky for beginners.
-New skiers should stay on the ground – we all want to impress our friends with airborne tricks, but they require coaching and experience to be done safely.
For those who want to get the most out of their season and take their performance to the next level consider this PRE-SEASON SKI TRAINING PROGRAM.
It is never a good idea to take up a new activity without preparation. If you take these tips I will see you on the slopes on a Saturday, instead of in the clinic on Monday!