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A winter filled with schussing, shredding the Gnar or just plain having fun on The Greatest Snow on Earth requires a healthy body. For the second consecutive year, Ski Utah turned to social, and asked what ski questions you've always wanted to ask a ski doctor. We've teamed up with the experts at the University of Utah Health to answer your questions. And of course, squats do a body good, but you might want to save the boots and skis for the snow:)
Question #1 - Alyssa Staker asks: "Any tips on avoiding the annoying skier’s thumb, whether it be hand strengthening or how you hold your pole/straps?"
My best advice to avoid skier’s thumb is to stay balanced, and try not to get in the “back seat” or put your hand down for balance if that does happen, in particular when conditions are less soft.—Andrew Tyser, MD
Question #2 - Stefanie Schulz asks: "Sometimes my feet cramp up in my boots on random days and other days they are fine. I usually drink plenty of water, so I don't think has to do with hydration. Is there a stretch or motion I can do to prevent foot cramps before and throughout the ski season?"
Foot cramping in ski boots is a common problem. It is not usually a hydration problem and is not usually a problem that will respond to specific stretching exercises. Foot cramping in ski boots is more commonly caused by boots that are too tight or poorly fitting. A consult with one of Utah’s many excellent ski boot fitting experts is on order. Good luck and see you on the slopes. —Stuart Willick, MD
Question #3 - Drew Petersen asks: "How should I balance quadricep and hamstring strengthening so as not to put my ACL at risk for a tear?” AND “When in the middle of the ski season, how much supplemental training should I do to avoid losing the strength I built in the gym before the season began?”
Excellent question. We know that ACLs are at greater risk of injury from muscle imbalance though we do not have the perfect answer for what that balance should be. Rather, we know that it should not focus solely on opposing muscle groups, but on the whole chorus of muscles required to maintain control and stability. Our anatomy is not typically built to have equal strength between the hamstrings and quads, but, the trouble begins when the quad strength greatly outmatches the hamstrings. Do not allow yourself to focus on one single exercise, a balanced approach is the best way to prepare and prevent. Eccentric exercise is the best type of exercise to perform in preparation for the ski season. This involves applying resistance to the muscle groups as they are slowly allowed to lengthen. A little preseason soreness with an effective training program is much more beneficial than a shortened powder day from early onset fatigue. The University Orthopaedic Center offers Ski Conditioning and Winter Fitness classes that can provide specific instruction. The University of Utah Health Care sports medicine physicians are also well accustomed to working with skiers and we would be happy to help guide you through the process.
And in response to your second question: Demands on your body during the ski season vary greatly depending on how long and how often you ski. An important principle to remember is that you must be stronger than what your activity requires. A large amount of injuries occurr to the fatigued skier who loses form and ability to react to the terrain appropriately. Skiing through fatigue can be a set up for injury. Recognizing when you are fatigued and what amount and kind of skiing led to that is a good way to prepare for upcoming powder days. Use the information of your "ceiling," and then extend an exercise program to encompass that deficit. When that fatigue does set in, there is little benefit to pushing through it as it can lead to a disappointing injury. Eccentric exercises are an important part of both the pre-season and mid-season workout and should be maintained throughout. A general principle of exercise is resting several days between strengthening exercises of the same muscle groups with cross-training on other days is a great way maintain the best conditioning possible. Sound like a lot? Don't be daunted. A little sweat both before and during the season will lead to your ability to tear up the slopes until the snow is melting.—Nick Monson, DO
Question #4 - Katie Lynn Baker asks: "What are some of the best stretches for your shins and calves? I get shin splints easily and my calves are always cramping after a day of skiing?"
Establishing the right diagnosis for your lower leg pain will help with the most efficient treatment for cramping and pain. Sports Medicine Specialists at the University of Utah Orthopaedic Center will be able to help you with this.
Shin splints are often caused by too much too soon, regardless of the sport. Preparing ahead of time for the increase in activity is one of the best ways: working on muscle imbalances that cause this pain, strengthening and stretching the calf, front of the shin, hips and core.
Until you get a firm diagnosis of your lower leg pain, A few ways to deal with your lower leg pain could be:
Stretching the right muscle: Tight lower leg muscles can change how your muscles absorb the impact and cause undue stress on the bones in your lower leg.
Making sure your boots fit properly: Getting a good boot fit can make skiing much easier and less painful. The reaction time and forces in a good fitting boot will allow you to maneuver your skis with better efficiency. When your foot does not have a proper foot bed, the lower leg muscles have to work harder, movements are more sloppy and harder to make. If the boot is not fit through the lower leg, the pressure on your calf can be uncomfortable and cause improper mechanics.
Strengthening the right muscles: Strong core, hips and lower legs allow easier ability to produce good alignment, balance and technique as well as absorb the impact of skiing, overall making the work on the feet/calves feel less taxing.—Linda Scholl, DPT
Question #5 - Ann Cooper asks: "What is the best training regimen to prepare for the season for 20+ ski days?"
LInda Scholl, Physical Therapist at University of Utah Orthopedic Center, outlines these exercises:
Cardiovascular fitness including endurance: Try a form of cardiovascular exercise: hiking, running, cycling, or indoor cardio gym equipment every day if not most days of the week for a minimum of 30-60 min.
Strength training: Gaining strength in your core and legs take priority, however not enough strength in your upper body, might leave your shoulder at risk for injury. For core work: work to hold a plank on your elbows and either toes or knees for 60-90 seconds for 3 repetitions. Lower extremity strengthening through body weight exercises such as lunges, bridges or squats with both or one leg, is a must for any downhill skiing. Using a weight machine to work on the hamstrings, quads and buttocks are best to not over-look! Using the extra resistance, increase the load overtime to gain the strength needed for the demands put on skiers!
Flexibility: Snow sports can put us into physically demanding positions and our bodies need to be able to bend, we might get pulled more than we want. being flexible in our hamstrings, quads and trunk is one way to help prevent injury! Here's more information and a video on flexibility.
Impact training: Without a doubt, downhill snow sports is like a controlling a fall down a hill. In order to prepare our bodies for this type of work (eccentric muscle contraction) we need to practice it! running hills, stairs or practicing jumping will help us prepare for the impact of skiing.
Question #6 - Stefanie Schulz asks: "How can I keep my knees stable and strong to prevent knee injuries?"
Stefanie, this is a great question. Your skiing will be better and more fun if you train well in preparation for the ski season. Balance exercises and strengthening exercises for the core, hip and thigh muscles are one important part of keeping your knees stable and preventing knee injuries. Another important part of preventing knee injuries is proper skiing technique. Research has shown that maintaining good balance on your skis and avoiding getting "in the back seat" with your weight too far backward, can decrease your risk of knee injuries during skiing.—Dr. Stuart Willick
Question #7 - Many, many people asked: "What's the best way to avoid being really sore after the first couple of days of skiing?"
These three specific exercises are your best place to start. Run/walk stairs, any hamstring exercise and squats. If you are sore the next day, walk/hike it out! Stiff/sore muscles will remain stiff/sore if not given a way to increase the blood supply through gentle exercise/motion.—Linda Scholl, DPT
Check out this video where Linda shows off the exercises that will help combat ski soreness.
Question #8 - Mike Kemp asks: "What are your general thoughts about the efficacy of a 58-year-old man with dual full hip replacements returning to the slopes?"
Mike, most joint replacement surgeons allow their patients with hip replacements to ski, once they have completed a successful course of rehabilitation after their surgery. However, everybody is a little bit different so each individual has to discuss their activities with their surgeon.—Dr. Stuart Willick
Question #9 - Jeremy Hadley asks: "I'm unable to do some activities because of left knee pain. Any secrets to deal with tendonitis? And any special exercises to strengthen Ski legs?"
Jeremy, the first step in getting you ready for ski season is to establish a firm diagnosis of your knee pain. The sports medicine specialists at the University of Utah can help provide you with a clear diagnosis and a treatment plan that will get your knee ready for the slopes. If your knee pain is indeed from tendonitis, then strengthening exercises focused on the thigh and hip muscles are the first line of treatment. Consider taking a ski conditioning class such as the one offered at the University of Utah Orthopaedic Center.—Dr. Stuart Willick
Question #10 - Mason Jewkes asks: "What are the best (day of) pre-ski and post-ski exercises?"
Pre-ski warm up: Don’t count on walking your snow equipment from the car to the base of the lift as a “warm up”! Be your best on the slopes, especially on those beautiful “gotta-be-first-in-line” powder days, take time to prepare your body! Swing one leg forward/back to loosen hips. Keep your leg relaxed with the big movements warming the body. Total lower body stretch: place one leg behind you, knee straight and heel flat. lunge onto forward leg keeping trunk upright, stretching the calf & hip flexor. after 30 sec, bend back knee to stretch the quad. Trunk: standing, feet firmly planted slightly more than hip width apart, twist trunk using arms side to side, loosening the spine. Shoulders: Big sweeping arm circles on each side.
Post-ski stretches: Be sure to get your quads and trunk as described above! Add in, hamstring: sit tall, place one foot in front of you with the knee straight. Bend forward from the hips until you feel a gentle pull behind the thigh. Deep hip rotators: Sitting, cross one ankle over the other knee and sit up slightly bend forward for deep hip rotators. Foam roll your buttocks, front, side and back of legs and stretch in the hot tub apres ski! just keep your head above water!—Linda Scholl, DPT
Let us know if there are any ski or snowboard related questions you have for the experts?