Are Your Knees Ready to Ski?
Knees are the main area we tend to see skiing related injuries. Skiing requires constant adjustment of the feet on a highly unstable surface while wearing large, protective boots that reduce your normal range of motion. This makes it very easy to move in ways that the forward-backward knee joint simply isn’t designed for, especially in slalom or cross country which require rapid, side-to-side motions.
People who are knock-kneed are particularly vulnerable to skiing-related knee injuries. Even a slight inward dip of the knee joint can put extreme pressure through the inside ligaments when it bends. As skiing requires constant bending of the knees, over time this pressure can overwhelm the affected ligaments, resulting in injury. If your knees come towards each other even slightly, it’s very important that you have your movement and knee strength assessed before you ski, and if your case is more extreme, you should avoid skiing altogether until it’s corrected.
Correcting Knee Drift is the First Priority
The most basic exercise to prepare your knees for skiing is to do a low squat while facing a mirror. As you slowly lower your backside to the ground, watch your knees closely to make sure they’re not drifting towards each other. If they’re not aligned, correct their position, then hold the squat for 30 seconds before slowly raising back to a standing position, keeping your knees aligned throughout.
After you’re confident that you can move through a squat without any issues, you can progress to other exercises that challenge your knee stability, such as single leg squats and lunges. Again, always perform such exercises in front of a mirror so you can monitor and correct any inward drift of the knee throughout the motion.
For general fitness in the run-up to skiing, you should focus on conditioning your quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings to make sure that your knees have as much strength and support around them as possible. If any one of the above gives in while you’re on the slopes, your knees could be suddenly overwhelmed with additional force.
Stay Safe on the Slopes
Skiing can be a shock to the system if your body isn’t used to it. Few people ski regularly enough to be fully prepared for the pressures it puts on them, and instead rely on their general level of fitness to protect them from injury.
If your activity level is low through the rest of the year, you should go very easy on yourself, making sure to take 15-30 minute breaks every hour and take a day off to rest if you’re there for more than a couple of days. Even if you are generally fit, if you develop any pain in your knees you should stay off the slopes until it subsides. Remember that you can always get in touch with us via email if you have any concerns, so don’t shrug off signs of injury.
Another thing you should be aware of is how to fall properly. Many acute knee injuries are sustained from what’s known as the Phantom Foot, where the tail of the ski acts as a lever that points on the opposite direction to the foot. This often occurs when a skier falls backwards but tries to keep themselves upright, followed by an awkward twist and the terrible crunch of an ACL tear. Learning how to do a controlled fall might save you from one of the worst knee injuries ruining your holiday.
And, finally, please: don’t drink and ski. Skiing requires constant attention and coordination, and while a holiday might feel like the perfect time to break the 5 o’clock rule, save the alcohol for when you’ve hung up your boots for the day.
We treat lots of knee injuries, so if you need some physiotherapy come and see us at either our Canary Wharf or Marble Arch clinic. And if you would like a ski assessment, or need help, then get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 020 7093 3499.
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