Winter Ski Injuries

Staying on the hill and out of the hospital

As many of us prepare for a well-earned holiday on the ski slopes, a bit of preparation and planning will keep us fit and healthy. Winter sports injuries are an ever present danger, particularly for once-a-year skiers involved in sedentary work. The flexibility and strength required for skiing and snowboarding can be quite a shock to bodies conditioned to sit at a desk 12 hours a day. The most common injuries sustained by winter sports enthusiasts are:

    Knee injuries (35%)
    Head injuries (15%)
    Fractures (thumbs and wrist) (5%)
    Dislocations (especially shoulders) (5%)
    Miscellaneous sprains (20%)

Head Injuries account for 15 percent of ski injuries and are the most dangerous. Most fatal injuries occur while people are skiing at high speeds, out of control and hitting a solid, fixed object. To avoid head injuries, wear a helmet, ski in control, match your speed to the conditions and always look where you are going.

Knee injuries account for more than 30 percent of all ski injuries. Snowboarders have a much lower incidence of knee injuries but experience a much higher rate of wrist injuries. Meniscus, medial collateral ligaments (MCL) and the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are the most common.

Tokyo American Club member Helen Throsby suffered an ACL rupture while skiing in Hokkaido earlier this year. After pre-operative strengthening, knee reconstruction surgery and six months of (ongoing) post-operative rehabilitation, she is getting back close to full function.

For a busy mother of five, this was an injury she could have done without. Helen put down her injury to using hired skis not fitted correctly. “The ski hire assistant tested one of the quick release bindings but did not test the other,” Helen says. “Sure enough, later that day the ski did not release during a fall which led to the ligament snapping.”

Tips to prevent injuries:

1. Make sure both skis release easily—be a pest to the ski hire guy!

2. Condition your body before skiing. Commence a strengthening program a minimum of six weeks before you go.

3. Don’t put your hand through the ski pole straps – they are there for hanging the stocks on the wall!

4. Don’t ski aggressively when you are tired. It is usually the last run of the day that causes the injury.

5. Don’t get up too soon when you are falling or sliding. Wait until you stop.

6. Try to fall with your head tucked in, your skis together and your arms at your side.

7. To avoid collisions, always ski in control and don’t stop in the middle of the piste.

8. Don’t ski after drinking.

9. Wear a helmet (especially kids); snowboarders should also wear wrist guards.

10. Although stretching before skiing will help, warm up with a few easy runs first.

If you do get injured, remember to place your skis in a cross, or your board above the injured person and call Ski Patrol. Do not attempt to move the person if you suspect there is even a chance of a neck or back injury. Prevention is the best form of treatment, but it is a fact of life that ski injuries will occur, so take care and have a happy and healthy ski season.

Bevan Colless is a skier and Australian-trained Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist). He and his wife Vanessa (also a Physiotherapist) operate Tokyo Physio, a leading Physical Therapy clinic in Tokyo. Tel: 03-3443-6769, Website: www.TokyoPhysio.com E-mail:
info@TokyoPhysio.com

White Season Work Out

Quadriceps. Leg Press. There are a number of foot positions you can use to work the different muscles of your quadriceps; you can have your feet close together, wide or shoulder width apart.

Work for three sets of 10-12 repetitions. First set work with your feet close, then normal and finally wide, with toes pointing outward.

Hamstring Curl Machine. Use a suitable weight and perform smooth reps. Avoid pushing yourself on this exercise, as most people's hamstrings will tend to be tight and can easily be damaged.

Aim for two to three sets of 10-12 reps, using a light weight for your first set.

Gluts / Hip Flexor Cable Pull. Connect a foot strap around a leg, just above the ankle joint, and attach this to a low cable pulley. Aim to keep your legs and back straight throughout the exercise, to help isolate the gluts, holding a secure object for balance.

Work for two sets of 10-12 reps, on each leg facing forward (gluts) and rearward (hip flexors).

Complete Lower Body. A combination of either front or rear lunges can be performed using a Smith Machine; however always make sure you perform with a light weight, enabling your leg muscles to get used to the movement prior to increasing the weight.

Aim for two sets of 10-15 reps for each leg, using a light weight, aiming for a full range of movement.

Program courtesy of Netfit.com