Skiing: It’s All Downhill from Here
Program focuses on conditioning
America’s favorite winter sports—downhill skiing and snowboarding—attract millions to the snowy slopes. Some will end up in emergency departments because these sports are physically demanding and require muscles, tendons, and ligaments that are rarely used in normal everyday activities.
The good news is that many of these injuries can be prevented with a smart preseason training program to add strength and flexibility.
Kevin Plancher, MD, official surgeon of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Teams, recommends a program that focuses on four key areas of conditioning:
- Flexibility: “Increasing the flexibility of connective tissue is the most important thing skiers and snowboarders can do to reduce the risk of injury,” Dr. Plancher says. That’s because virtually every major joint in the body—including ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, wrists, and elbows—are relied upon heavily during active skiing and snowboarding, as well as during a fall. “More flexibility can help skiers and boarders stay on their feet, but it can also help them land properly during a fall with the least chance of injury,” he notes. Engaging in a 20-minute full-body stretching routine daily after an aerobic activity that has warmed up the muscles can result in better flexibility within six to eight weeks.
- Strengthening: Strength and flexibility go hand-in-hand in preventing ski injury, Dr. Plancher says. The key is to strengthen muscles, tendons, and ligaments that may not have been used since last winter’s final trek to the slopes. For example, doing squats and rotations on a flexible platform can give underused leg and knee muscles a stretching, strengthening workout. Dr. Plancher cautions everyone to avoid deep knee squats or leg extension exercises with weights.
- Endurance: Overall physical fitness is important, since an exhausted, winded skier or snowboarder may be more prone to injury than a fit one. Thirty to 60 minutes of daily aerobic exercise can increase endurance, lung capacity, and overall fitness; choose walking, running, tennis, or biking to strengthen leg muscles at the same time.
- Core development: When well developed, the structures that make up the body’s core—the spine and abdomen—can improve balance, coordination, gracefulness, and overall power and strength. “This is an often overlooked aspect of preseason training,” Dr. Plancher says. “But it can be one of the most crucial ones, because few sports require such a well-honed sense of balance as do skiing and boarding.” Dr. Plancher recommends yoga and Pilates to help develop those core muscles, and for increasing mental focus—also key to reducing the risk of ski and snowboard injury.
Published November 25, 2008
Reviewed By: Shehnaz Shaikh, MD© www.health-eheadlines.com Consumer Health News Service