Staying Safe on the Slopes
Hitting the slopes? In order to stay healthy and injury free during ski season, it’s essential to learn how to prevent common ski injuries by routinely doing exercises targeting the muscle groups that you’ll use most.
A skier’s glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core are important for their overall power and strength. The glutes, quads, and hamstrings allow the skier to turn rapidly and shift their weight from side to side as they weave their way down steep inclines. The athlete’s core strength is crucial for stability and balance, both of which can help prevent falls. Injury Prevention Specialist Corey Dawkins explains, “if the glutes and core are failing, that’s how crashes and most injuries happen.”
Any part of the body is at risk for injury when the athlete crashes or falls, and as Injury Prevention Specialist Dennis Borg suggests, “strengthening your lower body will help prevent injuries to the upper body. If your lower body is strong, you will be less likely to fall in the first place.”
What are the most common injuries for skiers?
Knee: Tearing the ACL – the muscles that surround the knee are important for a skier’s balance, stability and coordination. Since the skier is frequently cutting and changing direction, the knees take most of the force. It is essential for skiers to build up their glute, quad, hamstring, and core muscles to prevent them from becoming weak and fatigued so they don’t give out.
Head: concussions – Wearing a helmet is an important safety component for skiers. Collisions and falls can happen quickly, and they put the athlete at risk of hitting their head. As a preventative measure, helmets should be worn at all times to reduce the risk of concussion and other head trauma.
Arm/shoulder: fractures, shoulder dislocations – In order to prevent injuries to the arm and shoulder, skiers should work on lower body strength and shoulder strength as well. If the legs aren’t tired, they will have an easier time supporting the rest of the body. If the shoulders are strong, the athlete will be able to support themselves when they hit the ground. However, if the athlete does fall, it’s important that they use the proper technique – the arms should be bent instead of straight in order to prevent injury on impact with the ground or other objects.
Thumb: ‘skier’s thumb’ – Although this injury is difficult to prevent with a specific exercise, Corey explains that it’s important to, “make sure equipment fits correctly. A lot of people use the wrong size for gear.” This goes for ski poles, gloves, boots, the length of the skis, and helmets.
As part of a warm-up to improve balance, Dennis recommends these two exercises:
Hip: Standing Extension
Hip: Standing Flexion
The following exercises will help to prevent common ski injuries:
Knee: Eccentric Incline squats
Knee: Side Lunges
Hamstring & Hip: Physioball Leg Curls
Hip: Single Leg Glute Bridge
Hip: Split Squats
Core: Seated Med Ball Twists
Core: Bird Dogs
Shoulder: Bent Over Rows
Neck: Farmer Carry
Don’t forget your protective gear. Make sure the ski boots fit properly, and always wear a helmet to help prevent head injuries. In fact, recent studies have shown a reduction in head injury risk of 29-60% with helmet use. Have fun on the slopes, and be safe!