Posted on January 31, 2014

skierThe knee is the most vulnerable body part for any athlete, including skiers. Downhill skiing produces large amounts of torque on the knee, challenging the integrity of ligaments and tendons. Whether from a fall or overuse, the most common injuries in skiers are tears to the MCL (Medial Collateral Ligament) or ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament), two important structures that give our knee stability.  When a skier is thrown off balance, his skis will sometimes shoot out in front of him, creating extra torque on the knees and damaging our stabilizing structures.

Both novice and experienced skiers are at risk of hurting their knees. We frequently see novice skiers hurt themselves when they do not know how to turn, stop or fall properly. Taking lessons and working with an instructor goes a long way in preventing knee injuries for beginner skiers. Experienced skiers frequently take risks and assume that they can manage faster speeds on any slope.  Many injuries, whether you are a beginner or an experienced skier, are related to weather conditions. It is important to realize that as visibility and surface conditions deteriorate, the slope or trail level goes up. In poor visibility or icy conditions, a beginner trail becomes an intermediate trail, and an intermediate slope becomes advanced slope. Keep injury prevention in mind, if the conditions are difficult, ski down a level.

A second reason injuries occur is fatigue. Most skiers’ bodies are not accustomed to exercising 6-8 straight hours. In addition, many skiers push their bodies to take advantage of the whole day, even when they start to feel tired and stiff.  For this reason, injuries tend to happen at the end of the day.

Having the knowledge of what places skiers at a higher risk for knee injuries, we are passing on recommendations about how to stay safe on the slopes.  Both beginners and experienced skiers can benefit from these tips!

  1. Start a conditioning program a few months before your first ski trip. Leg strengthening, flexibility and balance are important aspects of an adequate ski conditioning program.
  2. Ski with good technique. Maintain your balance and control, keep your hips above your knees, keep your arms forward, and maintain a safe speed.
  3. Learn how to fall correctly: keep your legs together, keep your chin to your chest and your arms up and forward.
  4. Pay attention to weather conditions and remember to ski down a level if conditions deteriorate.
  5. Listen to your body. If you start to feel pain or stiffness upon exiting the lift chair, then you should probably make that run your last. Head to the lodge and enjoy a warm drink by the fire.

Good luck and stay warm!

If you become injured, while skiing, remember, ONS sports medicine physicians are trained at the top universities and hospitals in the country and have expertise in the latest treatments for sports-related injuries in high-performance and recreational athletes.

Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery Specialists, PC (ONS) physicians provide expertise in the full spectrum of musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, sports medicine, minimally invasive orthopedic, spine and brain surgery, joint replacement and trauma. The main office is located at 6 Greenwich Office Park on Valley Road, Greenwich, CT. For more information, visit http://onsmd.com/ or call 203.869.1145.