Planning to hit the slopes this ski season? Getting away from city life for a few days to shoot down snowy hills is something to look forward to. But a ski injury definitely isn’t. And while modern equipment has made the sport much safer over the years, you still need to take steps to protect yourself. So, to help you do just that, here’s our advice on how to avoid 5 common ski injuries.
What is it
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is a band of fibrous tissue that runs along the front of the knee behind the patella and connects the tibia to the femur. Along with your other knee ligaments, it stabilises the joint and prevents the tibia and femur from slipping or sliding too far in any direction.
With an ACL tear, you’ll generally get the following:
- Instability or ‘wobbliness’ in the knee
- Pain in the front of the knee. It will be worse when bearing weight, especially while the knee is bent.
- A popping sound or sensation at the time of injury
The symptoms will vary depending on how badly you’ve damaged the ligament. With a grade 1 sprain, you may feel some discomfort. With a grade 3 sprain, you may be unable to put weight on that leg.
Skiers can tear their ACL during a fall - specifically when the knees twist while the ankle is locked in place by the boot. Interestingly, though, most ACL tears happen in the afternoon. Experts believe this may be due to the leg muscles giving out after long hours of skiing. As fatigued muscles can no longer activate properly, they can’t offer much support to the knee. And consequently, the tibia and fibula slide a little too far apart, damaging the ligament.
How to avoid it
- Strengthen your knees’ support network. The tougher your quads and hamstrings are, the better protection they’ll offer and the longer they’ll last on the slopes.
- Watch for muscle fatigue. With the biting cold and your mind focused on skiing, paying attention to muscle fatigue can be challenging. But ideally, try to check in and see how your legs are holding up. If they’re burning, it may be time for a break. If your muscles are cramping or twitching, you should consider taking the rest of the day off.
- Mind your technique. Proper falling and skiing form is crucial to avoiding injury. You’ll want to not spread your knees too far past your hips, keep your spine as neutral as possible, and always aim to fall sideways onto your hip. We’d also recommend taking a class or two (especially if you’re a beginner or early intermediate) so a pro can provide tailored advice.
- Get knee support. The GenuTrain S will help the muscle get the oxygen and nutrients it needs faster and communicate with your nerves to help them send and receive messages, improving your muscles' activation and reducing fatigue. The brace will also give your knee an additional layer of protection through light-hinged supports that won’t restrict movement.
Check out these knee-strengthening exercises: How to Strengthen Your Knees
What is it
The meniscus is made of 2 menisci - the lateral and the medial. These cartilage disks absorb shock and stop your leg bones from grinding into each other. When skiing, you can tear either of the meniscus disks through a sharp twist while changing direction or during a bad fall.
Meniscus injuries generally happen for similar reasons to ACL tears and have many of the same symptoms. You’ll generally feel or hear a pop and experience pain, swelling, and instability. But unlike an ACL tear, a torn meniscus can make bending and extending the knee to its original range difficult. And in some cases, you’ll feel like your knee ‘locks’ with certain movements.
How to avoid it
To reduce your risk of a meniscus tear, do the following:
- Strengthen your legs and core. Your leg muscles (chiefly the quads and hamstrings) are directly responsible for knee joint protection. Your core muscles, meanwhile, play a big role in controlling overall movement and absorbing and transferring forces. A weak core can’t do its job correctly, putting more pressure on other body parts as they’re forced to pick up the slack. So, try gradually increasing your squat reps or plank hold time. You can also add in some more advanced exercises like spider mountain climbers.
- Avoid harsh twisting motions. Sudden, wrenching stops and sharp turns aren’t always avoidable. But you should still aim to minimise them as much as possible. You can generally do so by sticking with slopes at your level and avoiding skiing in low-visibility conditions.
- Get a knee brace. As with ACL tear prevention, it’ll help your muscles protect the meniscus.
See some core workouts to try: 5 Steps to Treat Lower Back Pain from Deadlifts
If you have an existing issue with the ACL, MCL, or another part of your knee and require more robust support, the SofTec Genu is the go-to brace used throughout Winter Olympics tournaments. With longer coverage, double straps, and tough vector-knit compression fabric, it’s a great pick for supporting a knee that’s unstable or that has a history of injuries without sacrificing mobility.
Rotator cuff strain
The rotator cuff comprises four muscles: the Infraspinatus, Subscapularis, Supraspinatus and Teres Minor. You can injure any of these (and the tendons connecting them) through simple overuse, like relying on your ski poles a little too heavily. But, you can also damage them through an acute injury, like putting your body weight on a twisted shoulder during a fall.
The symptoms of a rotator cuff strain include:
- Weakness in the shoulder
- Stiffness or difficulty moving the joint
- A clicking sound or catching sensation as you rotate the shoulder
How to avoid it
- Strengthen your shoulder muscles to make them tougher and slower to fatigue.
- Stretch your rotator cuff and surrounding muscles. A flexible rotator cuff is less prone to pulling. You can add some of these exercises and stretches to your workout routine.
- Brace your shoulder. With its medical-grade compression knit, the OmoTrain S can be a great addition to your ski day (especially if you’re already feeling some spasms, tension, or fatigue around the rotator cuff).
Low back strain
What is it
Skiing can put a lot of pressure on the lumbar paraspinal muscles and deep abdominal muscles. These groups have to work very hard to support your spine while you’re bending and twisting to change direction. And as a result, minor muscle damage in the form of micro-tears stacks up, leading to an agitated, inflamed, and painful low back. Remember, dull muscle soreness the day after you do a strenuous workout is perfectly normal. But sharp pains as you ski aren’t.
How to avoid it
Sports Back Support
- Strengthen your core. Exercises like planks and dead bugs are great at working the deep core stabiliser muscles and will help to prep your spine’s support network for the season.
- Stretch your back and hamstrings. Tight muscles are more prone to damage. Loosen them up before you ski by doing stretches like legs up the wall and child’s pose.
- Watch your technique. Too much twisting through the lumbar or thoracic spine and hunching over instead of keeping your spine neutral will put increased pressure on your muscles.
- Try back support. Our Sports Back Support will boost circulation, giving your muscles the oxygen and nutrients they need to last longer.
To sum up
Skiing may be a much safer sport than it was just a couple of decades ago, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk of injury. Cartilage, ligament, muscle, and tendon tears from the knee up are still a common occurrence. Luckily though, you can minimise your risk through strengthening, watching how and where you ski, and getting a couple of quality supports.
Explore more ski supports: Skiing Braces and Supports
If you require assistance selecting the right product for your needs or wearing the brace, call us on 1300 668 466 or contact us via live chat.Do you have private health? Most private health extras will cover Bauerfeind Products. Check to see if yours is included. Bauerfeind Private Health Insurance Inquiry.