By Tara McGann, DPT, Physical Therapist at Peninsula Sports Medicine.
Injury Prevention Tips for Skiers and Snowboarders
Anyone who loves skiing and snowboarding knows how fun it is to carve down the mountain in newly waxed skis or snowboard, slicing through fresh snow. But, if you know that feeling, then you also might know how easy it is to get hurt doing so. Ski and snowboard injuries are common during the winter months, but you’ll be happy to know that there’s actually something you can do to lower your risk of injury!
Common types of injuries are sprains, strains, dislocations, fractures and contusions usually involving the knees, shoulders, wrists, and thumbs (caused by ski pole straps). There is also the potential to injure the spine with more serious falls and higher risk situations.
Sprains and strains are injuries to the soft tissue around the joint – muscles, tendons and ligaments. During sudden forces to the joint, the muscles are the first line of defense against injury, followed by the ligaments, the joint capsule, and finally the bone. There are three different grades to sprains/strains, Grade I – stretch of ligament with microtearing, Grade II – partial tearing of ligament with associated joint laxity, and Grade III – complete tearing with joint instability.
So how can you lower your risk for sprains, strains and dislocations? First, increasing the flexibility of your muscles with a consistent stretching program allows for your joints to move safely through a full range of motion. The stretching program should incorporate your legs, trunk, and upper extremities. Second, STRENGTHENING! Ligaments can be vulnerable to strains if you don’t have the muscle strength to support the joint sufficiently as the first line of defense. Important muscle groups to strengthen include your hips and gluts, quadriceps and hamstrings, rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder, wrist muscles and your core. Also, wearing wrist guards can help protect against extreme forces to the wrist, such as bracing yourself during a fall.
For the most specific exercise program that is tailored to your body’s specific needs, visit a skilled Physical Therapist to customize a program that focuses on strengthening your weak areas. This column is brought to you by Tara McGann, DPT, Peninsula Sports Medicine Clinic in Daly City, CA; PSMRC is a leader in quality physical therapy services for over 28 years; (650) 755-8830 www.psmrc.com
Having a strong core (abdominals and back) is one of the most important areas to strengthen your spine for balance, and coordination. It can help dynamically stabilize your spine when swooshing down the mountain or falling on your rear. Now, we’re not recommending that you do 500 sit-ups a day, which might actually stress your back, but rather do exercises that focus on the stabilizing muscles of your core: the lower abdominals (transverse abdominis and obliques) and the back (multifidus and erector spinae).
Here are some exercise ideas and descriptions to start your injury prevention program:
Fractures and contusions are more challenging to avoid because they most commonly occur during hard impact. The best way to avoid direct injuries are: don’t do too much too soon, make sure your body and your skills are strong and ready for the level of activity, and recognize when you’re tired and need a rest.
One last but very important suggestion: wear a helmet!! Head injuries can occur easily on the slopes, especially if you’re skiing or snowboarding among trees.
Be as strong as you can be out there on the slopes! Strength is the key to a healthy body and an injury-free snow season!
Tara McGann, DPT, Physical Therapist at Peninsula Sports Medicine, located at 2945 Junipero Serra Blvd Daly City, California 94014 (650) 755-8830.