Will Your Knees Be Ready to Ski? Tips from ONS to Avoid Injury

Although the forecasts are not yet predicting snow, skiers and snowboarders would be wise to take up a targeted conditioning program now to avoid the aches and injuries that often plague them on KatherineVadasdiMD300x398the slopes. Winter activities tend to tax muscles and muscle groups that are used very little during the rest of the year. As a result, even the best athletes can suffer when taking on the extreme stresses of downhill sports.

Orthopedic surgeon Steven Hindman, MD of Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery Specialsts (ONS) in Greenwich and Stamford, CT, suggests that preseason conditioning exercises can help avert pain and the most feared knee injury of all – a season-ending tear to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) .

“Ideally, people should start a conditioning program two to three months before they get near the mountain,” said Dr. Hindman. “But it’s never to late to benefit from a preventive exercise routine.” Too often, he noted, people go from their car to the ski lift without a single stretch. Such lack of preparation greatly increases the risk of injury.

One of four ligaments that provide stability to the knee, the ACL can tear when there is a sudden strain, abrupt change of direction, or twisting of the knee joint while the feet remain in a single direction. Skiers are at greatest risk to strain the ACL to the point of tearing when they try to recover from a fall with their body weight in back of the skis, if they don’t land a jump correctly, or if improperly set ski bindings don’t release during a a critical moment. ACL tears usually require surgery and a lengthy recuperation to repair.

Since the major leg muscles work the hardest when skiing and snowboarding, exercises should focus on strengthening thighs, hamstrings, calves and hips. Workouts that incorporate these muscle groups will help maintain good balance, stabilize the knee during stress situations and build endurance for a full day on the mountain. Adding practices such as yoga and Pilates will also develop strength and balance while improving the body’s flexibility and core fitness.

As important as conditioning is off the slopes, knowing your body’s limit is key on the slopes. Studies show that the majority of injuries happen at the end of the day with the combination of fatigue, flat light, and deteriorating snow conditions. “When you get tired, stop,” said Dr. Hindman.


ONS Knee Specialist Dr. Katie Vadasdi discusses Olympic Athlete Lindsey Vonn’s Injury

The ONS Women’s Sports Medicine Center team of experts consists of current and former athletes and fitness enthusiasts who know firsthand what it takes to train and excel in a sport. With the 2014 Olympics just a few weeks away, ONS orthopedic surgeon and women’s sports medicine specialist, Katie Vadasdi, MD, shared her expert opinion on one of the latest setbacks in Olympic history.


In recent news, US skiing champion, and Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn stated that she would be pulling out of the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia. The famed downhill skier experienced a series of knee injuries which led to her decision not compete.  When asked about Lindsey’s decision, Dr. Vadasdi said, “Vonn has made an appropriate but difficult decision to pull out of the winter Olympics this year in order to give her knee the medical attention it requires.  Her sport requires an incredible amount of strength and having an unstable knee puts her in a dangerous position where she might further injure her knee or cause other injuries.”

Last February, Lindsey tore two ligaments in her right knee and broke a bone in the same leg during an intense crash at the world championships. Upon returning to the sport, Vonn reinjured her surgically repaired ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) when she crashed during a training session. Two weeks later, Lindsey suffered another injury when she sprained her MCL (medial collateral ligament), during a downhill event. After reconstructive knee surgery in February 2013, Vonn posted on Facebook that she “is devastated” to miss the Olympics, “but the reality has sunk in that my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level.”

Each year, at least 1 in 3,000 Americans between the ages of 14 and 55 tear an ACL while exercising or playing sports.  Skiers are among the group of athletes who are more likely to experience an ACL injury. Dr. Vadasdi said of Vonn’s injury, “she will undergo ACL reconstruction which will provide her knee the stability it requires to return to such highly-competitive skiing.” A reconstructed ACL not only stabilizes the knee, but also prevents damage to the menisci cartilage that often occurs due to an unstable joint.

“By making the decision now to withdraw from the Olympics and to undergo the surgery, she will allow herself the necessary time to recover and fully rehab her knee to get her back on the slopes safely and at her height competitive level.”

To learn more about ACL Injuries, click here: https://onsmd.com/condition_treatment/acl-injuries/ and visit our Women’s Sports Medicine Center at https://onsmd.com/sports-medicine/womens-sports-medicine-center/.

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 www.onsmd.com or call 203.869.1145.