In the first of an occasional series, we provide a concise injury-avoidance guide to various popular sports. First, recreational skiing
As anyone who's ever skied will know, injury on the slopes is quite common. The group that is particularly at risk is the de-conditioned recreational skier taking his or her annual ski holiday. Falls are the biggest cause of skiing injury, accounting for about 75% of all injuries. About 20% of injuries are caused by collisions and some injuries occur on the ski lifts.
MCL (knee ligament) sprain is the most common knee injury in skiers. This normally happens with beginners who twist a knee at slow speeds. It can also occur by 'catching an edge' at speed. The ACL sprain is also common, when the skier falls backwards and the leg extends in front and also from 'catching an edge'.
Femur and tibia fractures tend to occur in violent falls or collisions. Normally these happen more with poor snow conditions, such as hard pack ice or crud.
Upper limb injuries account for about 30% of all ski injuries. In fact, thumb joint sprain is the second most common injury after MCL sprain. Upper limb fractures are rare, but shoulder joint dislocation is the second most frequent upper limb injury. However, with the rise in snow boarding, broken wrists are now more common.
Fatigue is one of the biggest factors in injury risks. Statistically, the most common time to be injured is the second afternoon of a six-day holiday. This is the
time when a de-conditioned recreational skier will have completed two days of skiing and be at peak fatigue before any training benefit from the activity has kicked in.
Indirectly, this may also be the reason why poor snow conditions increase the incidence of injury, as the muscle work required to ski on hard pack snow is much greater, causing early fatigue.
Probably the most important factor in preventing injury is taking part in a conditioning programme before the skiing holiday. The training must focus on building muscular endurance to help avoid fatigue and maintain technique throughout the day's skiing. In addition, if the exercise programme can promote co-ordination of joint movements and balance that are functionally related to skiing, then this is most beneficial.
EMG studies have shown that, as you would expect, all the major leg muscles are working hard during ski turns. In addition the abdominal and erector spinae muscles are also working very hard. The function of these muscles is to maintain a good position on the skis, leaning forward from the hips.
The following exercises make a very good routine for ski holiday preparation. Notice the emphasis on endurance with the use of 20 repetitions per set.
Parallel squat Build up to 3 x 20. 30 seconds rest.
Ab crunch Build up to 3 x 20. 30 seconds rest.
Dead lift Build up to 3 x 20. 30 seconds rest.
Twisted crunch Build up to 3 x 20. 30 seconds rest.
One-footed calf raise Perform in socks and keep knee slightly bent. Build up to 3 x 20. 30 seconds rest.
Back raise on floor (hands by ears). Build up to 3 x 20. 30 seconds rest.
Single leg squats Build up to 3 x 10 each side. Swap over, no rest.
One legged chop Stand on one leg and bend forward from hips, keeping your back straight. Build up to 3 x 10 each side.
Other injury-prevention tactics
The following practical tips will also help prevent injuries during skiing.
First of all, pacing yourself during the day's skiing will help prevent fatigue. This means doing common-sense things such as warming up on an easy slope and taking short regular breaks for drinks or food. Remember, injuries are most likely to happen first thing in the morning when you are cold and in the afternoon when you are tired.
I also recommend a thorough stretching routine at the end of the day to help relax the muscles and aid recovery. The important muscles to stretch are the calves, hamstrings, gluteals, low back, quadriceps and hip flexors.
Good nutrition, specifically ensuring that your muscle glycogen stores are full, will help you perform better on the slopes and prevent fatigue. It has been proven in other sports that injuries are more likely to occur when glycogen stores are depleted and muscle power is diminished, so it's logical that the same would be true of recreational skiing. The use of a post-skiing recovery drink, containing a good dose of carbohydrates and electrolytes is a good nutritional tactic to help replenish glycogen stores and re-hydration at the end of the day.