Winter Injury Prevention: Alpine Skiing, Nordic Skiing, & Snowboarding: Part 1
At Excel Physical Therapy, winter is often our busiest time of year; and with good reason, many of us choose to live here for our winter pursuits of skiing and snowboarding. Unfortunately these sports have a high injury rate and can lead to serous injuries resulting in the need for surgery and extensive rehabilitation. While one cannot completely prevent injuries in skiing and snowboarding, your risk can be reduced by following injury prevention guidelines. This series of blogs will focus on injuries and their prevention for alpine skiing, snowboarding, and Nordic skiing.
Alpine skiing involves great physical demands over variable terrain. Skiing puts the most demand on ones lower extremities (legs). As a result, the lower extremity is the most common region injured in skiing, with the knee most often being involved1.
The knee joint is exposed to a great deal of force because it is in between the body’s two longest lever arms: the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). Unfortunately, if the knee is in the wrong position with high forces all the strength of the quadriceps and hamstrings (main stabilizers of the knee) cannot overcome a ligamentous injury.
In alpine skiing, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most often injured ligament of the knee1. In addition to preventing the tibia from sliding too far forward, the ACL also is an important stabilizer for rotation. Thus most people who tear their ACL cannot return to cutting and pivoting sports (such as skiing) without surgical reconstruction.
In addition to being costly, one must go through a long rehabilitation process (also costly) following surgery, with the average time from surgery to return to sport being 6-9 months. The risk ACL injuries in alpine skiing can be reduced through several factors: 1.) Proper strength, 2.) Proper equipment, and 3.) Proper technique.
1 Westin M, Alricsson M, Werner S. Injury profile of competitive alpine skiers:
a five-year cohort study. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2012 Jun;20(6):1175-81.
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Jason Lunden, DPT, SCS specializes in the rehabilitation and prevention of sports-related injuries, with a particular interest in the biomechanics of sporting activities – running, cycling, skiing, snowboarding and overhead athletics. He has published on the topic of shoulder biomechanics and the rehabilitation of knee injuries and has a strong commitment to educating others. Jason serves as a physical therapist for the US Snowboarding and US Freeskiing teams and is a frequent, well-received local and national presenter on the topics of sports rehabilitation and injury prevention.
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