Winter is finally here! For many of you this means it’s time to dust off those skis and snowboards, mount the ski rack, and head for the slopes.
There are a multitude of snow sport related orthopedic injuries that we see in the clinic during the winter season. Knee injuries, including ACL, MCL, and meniscus tears are quite common when the body and knee twists during a fall. Upper extremity fractures and sprains are also common as the result of a fall onto an outstretched arm.
Muscle flexibility is a vital component to not only improve ski and snowboard performance, but to help prevent muscle strain injuries. Starting a gentle stretching program for your lower back and legs before getting back on the mountain can make a world of difference. Muscle groups to target include the lower back, hip flexors, hamstring, quadriceps and calves. Staying limber will help you flow into turns and absorb bumps with greater ease and less strain on your muscles, ultimately decreasing risk of injury.
Muscle strength is also critical. Recent studies and surveys show that a high frequency of snow sport related injuries occur towards the end of the day. This is because your muscles are more fatigued later in the day after long bouts of intense physical activity. If your muscles are not able to react as quickly and powerfully as they should to adapt to a sudden change in terrain, such as an ice patch, or avoiding other skiers, then the system is likely to fail causing your legs to give out and your knees to buckle. Working on core and leg strength prior to the next run at the slopes will help your body adapt and reduce the risk of potential injury. Strengthening exercises such as planks, squats, dead lifts and lunges are just a few examples of exercises that focus on major muscle groups.
Balance and proprioceptive training are all important as well when it comes to injury prevention on the slopes. Proprioception is our brain’s ability to know where it is in space. This allows for coordination of muscles and movement patterns to complete complex tasks that require stability and quick reaction time. Single limb balance, eyes closed balance, and dynamic balance activities on unstable surfaces such as BOSU balls, dynadiscs, or wobble boards are great activities to help enhance your body’s balance and proprioception to further decrease your risk of a fall that might result in injury.
Our licensed physical therapists are all qualified to evaluate and screen patients for potential impairments, weakness, and muscle imbalances that may contribute to the risk of injury while skiing or snowboarding. We can provide detailed home stretching, strengthening, and balance programs to help maximize your performance and help prevent a potential serious injury.
Peter Geloso, DPT received his doctorate degree in physical therapy from Elon University in Elon, NC. He is a clinician at Amity Physical Therapy in Woodbridge, founded twelve years ago by Michael Dow, MSPT CEO/Clinical Director. The practice now has three offices in Woodbridge, Hamden and Branford. For more information call 203-389-4593 or visit www.amitypt.com.