Skiing can be one of the most enjoyable winter activities and is a great sport the entire family can enjoy. But nothing can ruin a great day outdoors (or even the next 6-12 months) like a serious injury such as the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear.
Skiers are at greatest risk to strain the ACL to the point of tearing in several ways: 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 critical moment. ACL tears usually require surgery and a lengthy recuperation to repair. In short, it’s an injury you want to avoid at all cost.
It almost goes without saying that proper fitting equipment, adequate rest, hydration, sleep and weather-appropriate, moisture-wicking attire are essential elements of injury prevention.
Physical preparation is also key. Ideally, you started a conditioning program at least two or three months before your ski trip to build strength and stability in your core and lower body. If you didn’t get around to it, or if this is your first trip of the season, it’s worth considering the following safety tips from ONS Sports Medicine Specialist, Dr. Demetris Delos.
- Warm up: Some light stretching slope-side before you step into your skis can be helpful to stimulate the muscles that will play an important role in a day of skiing. For example, try a few simple leg exercises such as leg circles and leg lifts to the sides, back and front of your body while engaging your core. Mini squats, trunk twists and 30 seconds of quad and hip flexor stretches will also help with flexibility.
- Acclimate: Take a few runs on an easy trail to put your mind and body rhythm in sync before you attempt more difficult terrain.
- Cool down: When you break for lunch and at the end of the day, stretching (preferably by maintaining a certain pose for 15-20 seconds at a time, and repeating that for 3-5 repetitions) can loosen up the muscles and prepare them for the necessary recovery process.
- Know Your Limits: Ski at your level. Don’t think about tackling a mogul-filled Double Black Diamond if blue runs are the height of your comfort zone. Ignore pressure from more accomplished friends or significant others.
- Know When to Quit: Most skiers know that the risk of injury increases in the afternoon or early evening as fatigue sets in. So, if you’re feeling fatigued but want to do one last run, DON’T.
- Respect Nature: The risk of injury increases when visibility is decreased by late afternoon shadows, during snowfall, and when ski conditions become very icy or very soft. When these factors are present, consider easier runs or call it a day.