Sensible Skiing: Have Fun and Avoid Injuries
Preparing for ski season requires more than dusting off your skis and waiting for the snow to fall. Whether you're an advanced skier or a beginner, proper conditioning is necessary to help ensure you avoid injuries and have fun on the slopes.
"Strength, endurance and flexibility are all very important for skiing," says Roger V. Larson, M.D., associate professor of orthopedics and sports medicine at the University of Washington. "Skiers need to start concentrating on these areas before the season begins."
Ski conditioning should begin at least six weeks before the start of the season and be performed three times or more a week. Weight training, including squats and leg press exercises, is recommended for strengthening muscles, and using a stair-climbing machine, biking and running stairs can help build both strength and endurance. Ski conditioning courses are also a great way to prepare for the season.
In addition to preparing your body during the off-season, it is important to learn some basic tips to keep you feeling healthy and skiing safely once winter arrives.
The majority of ski injuries occur in beginning and advanced skiers, Dr. Larson says. Accidents among beginners are sometimes attributed to bindings that are set too tight and do not allow the ski to release when a person falls. For advanced skiers, high speeds and difficult courses are often factors contributing to injuries.
Because of improvements in ski boots, fractures of the leg and ankle occur less frequently. The most common serious injury now encountered is a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, one of four major ligaments of the knee. Such an injury usually occurs when a skier has a twisting fall or tries to recover from a "backward fall," Dr. Larson says. This type of injury is serious, requiring surgery to rebuild the torn ligament and involving a recovery period of about a year.
Another common ski injury is the tearing of ligaments at the base of the thumb. This occurs when a skier's thumb is caught in the handles or straps attached to ski poles. To help avoid this injury, make sure the pole strap is loose around your hand. If you fall, hit the snow with a clenched fist.
When spending a day on the slopes, skiers of all ages and skill levels should pay attention to their bodies and the weather as the day goes by. Beginners should also be sure to ski within their abilities and stay on groomed slopes.
"A majority of injuries occur on a skier's last scheduled run of the day when fatigue has started to set in," says Dr. Larson, who is an avid skier himself. "If you're debating whether to quit skiing when you're tired or the weather is turning bad, it's better to stop while you're ahead than end the day with an injury."