Get ready for the ski season - how to avoid knee injuries

30 October 2017

Mr Gareth Stables, Consultant Knee Surgeon at Spire Cheshire Hospital offers advice on how you can get ready for the ski season and hopefully avoid any possible knee injuries.

Your knee is the most likely part of your body to get injured while skiing, and knee injuries account for around 45 percent of all ski-related injuries. Injuries such as cartilage tears, ligament tears and joint surface damage along with muscle tears and sprains are common. Knee injuries can ruin your trip and also affect your lifestyle when you return from holiday. 

Prevention is better than cure

The best way to get the most out of a skiing trip is to arrive fit, healthy and ready to ski. Poor levels of fitness can mean that you end up skiing less than you'd like to because you tire more quickly. Fatigued muscles can make you more prone to injury.

Prepare for your winter skiing by doing some ski-specific exercises in the weeks leading up to your ski trip.

To protect your knees while skiing, you should begin a programme to improve the strength and endurance of these muscles for eight to 12 weeks before you hit the slopes.

Remember it is always worth checking in with your doctor before starting a new fitness routine - especially if you have been unwell or not exercised recently.

Basics

Your knee joint is not just a simple hinge but rather a complex joint combining highly adapted, super smooth joint surfaces and shock absorbing cartilages all supported by finely tuned ligaments, reinforced by the tendons of the quadriceps and hamstring muscles.


Ski exercises you can do at home to help you avoid injury

Squats:

Your thighs are probably the hardest working muscles in skiing, and simple squats are one of the best thigh exercises around. 

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands by your sides.
  • Push your hips backwards, and bend your knees until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor. Stand back up and repeat.

Tip - if you find this easy you can make this exercise harder by holding weights in your hands.

Do three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions resting 60 to 90 seconds between sets.

 

Lateral Jumps - dynamic strengthening:

Lateral jumps are a great exercise for skiing.They strengthen the outside of your thighs and they are good for leg power and strength. 

  • Stand side on to a shin-high obstacle (you can imagine jumping over an old school gym bench).
  • With your feet together, jump over the obstacle and then immediately jump back. Make sure your jumps are quick and light.
  • Do three sets of 10 to 20 jumps. Use a higher obstacle for a harder workout.

 

Wall squats for endurance:

Wall squats are a great leg endurance exercise. They require no specialised equipment and can be performed anywhere you have a suitable wall.

  • Lean with your back against a wall, feet in front, hands on hips.
  • Lower your body until your hips make a 90 degree angle and your thighs are parallel to the floor
  • Make sure your knees make a 90 degree angle with your thighs, with your feet on the floor and your shins perpendicular to the ground.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds (beginners) up to 120 seconds (advanced)

You will feel the “burn” in the muscles at the front of your thigh (the “quads”).

 

Planks for a stronger core:

Your core muscles (abs, waist and lower back) work hard when you ski, especially when you change direction or ski over rough terrain. A strong core also supports your spine and may reduce your risk of injury.

  • Lie on your front with your arms bent and elbows resting on the floor.
  • Lift your hips so your weight is supported on your arms and toes only.
  • Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds and then rest. Repeat for 3 sets.

Do not hold your breath as this may cause your blood pressure to rise. This exercise can also be performed on your side to target your oblique or waist muscles.

 

Knee injury? Sore or creaking joints?

Knee problems, when diagnosed early, can often be treated without the need for major surgery. However when left untreated simple problems can lead to instability pain and disuse. This means the important stabilising muscles around your knee weaken and this can predispose to more serious injury.

Consider getting your knees checked out before your next ski trip. Ask your physiotherapist or consultant for advice on how to protect your knees.

For more information or to make an appointment with a physiotherapist at Spire Cheshire Hospital please call 01925 215 027. To make an appointment with Mr Gareth Stables, Consultant Knee Surgeon please call 01925 215 087 or click here to view Mr Stables web profile page.   

 

The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional

 

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