It’s an old cliché, but an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure when it comes to protecting yourself against ski injuries. In the ski world it's taboo to talk about ski injuries, but the good news is that there are very special preparations that can be taken to keep you healthy out on the slopes. Travis Maak, M.D., a surgeon at University of Utah’s Orthopaedic Center, says about a quarter of his new patients every year have experienced ski injuries. Here are some of his tips for keeping you on the ski slopes, not in the ski clinic.
Get in shape … but the right kind of shape.
“People say, ‘I run 15 miles a day, I’m in great shape,’” says Maak. “But the muscles you use in skiing are unlike any others.” The most important muscles to prep for skiing are the quadriceps, gluteals and core muscles with exercises like wall sits, leg presses and sit-ups. Since skiing is an anaerobic activity — a short burst of speed and muscle load — aerobic exercise has no impact on your ski readiness.
Skip your last run.
“Go home one run early and you will have a far less risk of injury,” says Maak. By the time you plan to make one last run, your muscles are already tired and can’t do the important work of protecting your joints. That’s why a majority of injuries occur at the end of the day.
Get the right equipment.
If you’re one of those holdouts refusing a helmet, get over it. Wearing a helmet is the most important thing you can do — along with avoiding stationary objects — to protect yourself against concussion. Skip knee braces unless prescribed by a physician, but wrist braces are essential for snowboarders who are susceptible to breaks or ligament injury to the wrist.
Don’t be a tough guy.
How quickly you’ll be back on the slopes after an injury depends on the type and severity, but don’t try to rush your recovery. If you have any pain, you are definitely at risk for re-injury. Recovery from any injury results in some muscle deconditioning, so wait until you’ve restored your strength. If you think you’ve hurt yourself, get it checked out. Don’t try to tough through it.
Please contribute to this blog and let us know what you do to stay healthy and injury free throughout the winter.