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Skiing Tips to Avoid Injury on the Slopes

By Kevin Dandy, PT, MPT, CMPT, CDN | February 6, 2020

According to a recent Johns Hopkins study, it is estimated that about 600,000 people in the U.S. are injured and require hospitalization each year as a result of skiing and snowboarding. And of all skiers, an incidence of one injury per 500 skier visits occurs.

Injuries while alpine skiing typically includes the knee, the shoulder, wrist, thumb, and the head.  Crashing or catching an edge can twist the knee, causing forces that result in sprains or tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and/or the medial collateral ligament (MCL). The meniscus is also at risk with twisting injuries of the knee. Falling on an outstretched arm can result in shoulder dislocation, sprains and/or fracture of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand. Head injuries, including concussions, can result from crashing into obstacles or hard falls on ice.

Proper conditioning is a must prior to skiing, and is best initiated at least 6 weeks prior to your ski trip.  While it won’t eliminate all possible injuries on the slopes, it will greatly reduce your risk of injury. Getting your body ready for the demands (and joys) of skiing is a must. 

Exercises to improve strength, endurance, and balance will all reduce the risk of injury from falls while skiing. Proper training will reduce your chance of falling in the first place, but if you do fall your body will be more resilient to the forces placed on it. Focus on power and plyometric movements for the core, legs, and arms with proper form. Strong hips, thighs, and core will limit the chance of injury, and make skiing more enjoyable. Also, you will want to pay special attention to hip and knee position while training and squatting, as it proper position will reduce stress on the knee. With incorrect positioning, the added stress on the knee can lead to collateral ligament injury. 

Top 10 Pre-Ski Conditioning Exercises to Avoid Pain on the Slopes

  1. Jumping rope as a warm up:
    Great whole body warm up that loads the spine and leg joints
  2. Front squats:
    Addresses strength of the quadriceps, gluteals strength, and the low back in a functional position.
  3. Single and double leg deadlifts:
    Power and motor control for the low back, hamstrings, and gluteals.
  4. Lateral hops:
    Functional movement for skiers that addresses strength within the core and legs.
  5. Multi-angle lunges:
    Improves mobility and strength in the lower body.
  6. Box jumps
    Strengthens both the quadriceps and gluteals, and improves leg power and tolerance for jumping, landing, and moguls.
  7. Copenhagen adductor:
    Strengthens the groin, minimizing risk of MCL injury.
  8. Nordic curl:
    Very important exercise to improve hamstring strength and motor control.  Weakness of the hamstrings can increase the risk of an ACL tear.
  9. Planks (Front & Side):
    Addresses core and hip strength.
  10. Push-ups:
    Reduces the risk of an upper body injury, as it strengthens and loads the arms to help prepare for the potential scenario of a fall on an outstretched arm. 

Ski Safety Tips

  • Always wear a helmet to reduce the risk of head injuries.  
  • Remember to ski with well maintained equipment to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Ski in control and always within your limits.
  • Quit before you’re tired – don’t make your “one last run” into a trip to the hospital.

If you’re looking to improve your strength, endurance, and balance before your next ski trip, or if you’ve recently been on a trip and think you have injured yourself from it, the physical therapists and personal trainers at VTFC are here to help you! We are trained and skilled in Orthopaedic Manual Therapy and rehabilitation training, and strive to get you back out there on the slopes.

About The Authors

Kevin Dandy, PT, MPT, CMPT, CDN

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