HOPE I DON’T INJURE MY KNEE THIS SKI SEASON!
If you’re uttering these words to yourself as the white stuff falls, then read on…
Skiing is fantastic for both recreation and exercise but unfortunately knee injuries are no stranger to this sport. With our feet locked into a solid boot and a long lever attached to the boot, the knee acts as a hinge. This hinge joint ends up taking the brunt of the force when we catch an edge, get a ski caught or take a tumble. The soft tissue of the knee is made up primarily of ligaments, cartilage and surrounding muscles.
A couple common soft tissue knee injuries from skiing include ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and MCL (medial collateral ligament) sprains and meniscal (cartilage that acts like a cushion in the knee) tears.
Although it’s mighty tough to prevent injuries such as a fractured patella due to an impact force, there are some things we can do to prevent a soft tissue injury out on the slopes!
Keep the core solid– As a basic rule of thumb, the stronger we are in our central core, the more stable our leg becomes. So, by creating a strong unit of abdominals and gluts, it will help reduce the strain on the ligaments of the knee joint. A couple great exercises include:
Plank- suspend your body on your elbows and toes. Goal= hold for 1 minute
Bridging- lie on your back and lift your pelvis up off the ground. Goal= hold for 2 minutes
Train those joint receptors– Joint receptors lie within our ligaments and other structures. By firing up these receptors, our proprioception (awareness of where we are in space) and balance are improved. If the joint receptors are firing well, it will help our ligaments sustain forces. A couple ways to do so include:
Stand on one leg, close your eyes and then try rotating your head
Incorporate the bosu (air cushion like device) into your workouts
Stay strong in the legs– Try to get those quadriceps and hamstrings a bit more rock like in nature! Because both these muscle groups travel across the knee, they act like powerful security blankets for the knee. If they are strong and firing well, they will help shield the ligaments and meniscus from injury. If you’re not doing them already, you might want to add these exercises into your workouts:
Squats- either wall squats or free standing squats (with weights as able)
Hamstring curls- lying on your back with your feet up on a ball or use a machine at the gym
These are just a couple tools to help you stay injury free this ski season. As for snowboarders, well, they count too! But boarders are generally more likely to endure wrist and ankle injuries based on forces taken in a different way.
If you are interested in learning more about injury prevention, consult your fitness trainer or physiotherapist.