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If you know any diehard skiers, or you count yourself among this group, you understand just how special this wintertime activity is. Getting outside year-round is one of the most amazing benefits of living in and around the Rocky Mountains, and we encourage you to take advantage of this benefit. As orthopedists, however, we do want you to safeguard your health while pursuing your favorite activities, and for skiers, that means knees.
At Western Orthopaedics, our team of experienced ortho specialists offers a wide range of services that cover your musculoskeletal needs from head to toe. And since our two locations in Denver and Arvada sit adjacent to the Front Range, we’re all too familiar with knee injuries among skiers.
To help protect your knees this winter, we’ve pulled together six tips that will keep you carving all winter long.
1. Preseason (and in-season) prep
Many skiers, especially those who’ve previously sustained a knee injury, spend the months leading up to opening day strengthening their knees, which includes all of the surrounding muscles, like the quads and hamstrings. By strengthening your supporting tissues, you take the pressure off of more vulnerable areas, including your ligaments.
The best strengthening exercises for your knees and legs include:
Though we understand that ski season is already upon us, taking the time in between outings to perform these exercises will make your weekend runs all the sweeter.
As well as strengthening, don’t forget to work on range-of-motion exercises for flexibility. A good yoga class covers those bases beautifully.
2. Go to a Pro
Many knee injuries occur as a result of poor technique. Whether you’re a beginner skier or a seasoned veteran of the sport, taking the time to ski with a pro is always good practice. These instructors are well-versed in the techniques that not only help your performance, but also help you avoid injury.
For example, many knee injuries occur because of poor balance. A pro teaches you how to center your weight to prevent you from pitching forward or back.
And if you’re an expert skier, a tune-up lesson is always a good idea as poor technique can always take hold. Your instructor may make a simple tweaks to your style that will up your skiing game and protect your knees.
3. Don’t straighten up
Though it’s hard to correct your body during a fall, some rules of thumb will protect your knees, starting with not locking them up. If at all possible, keep your knees slightly bent if you’re falling. As well, don’t try and get up if you’re sliding down the hill. Simply go with the flow and only try to stand once you’ve come to a full stop.
4. Know the conditions
Snow conditions in Colorado can change from one hour to the next, so it’s important to take stock of the surface. Many knee injuries occur when a skier is schussing downhill and meets a slushy patch, or a deep patch, which can cause a sudden slow down or stop.
If you’re out skiing, take note when conditions change (perhaps it starts raining or the sun comes out and melts the snow), and exercise extra caution.
And when it snows, which is every skier’s dream, be mindful of the reduced visibility and proceed with care.
5. Check your equipment
Another culprit when it comes to knee injuries are bindings that don’t release properly. Make sure that your bindings are in good shape and that they’re set to your weight and ability level. If you have any questions about that, just hit the local ski shop before you hit the slopes.
6. Listen up, and call it quits
This last point is an important one. If your knees begin to ache or become tired, pay heed and head to the lodge. A majority of injuries on the slopes occur on the last run of the day, when your body is tired and weak. Instead of “getting just one more run in,” do your knees (and the rest of your body) a favor and call it a day. There’s no last run that’s worth a months-long slog with a knee injury.
If, despite your best efforts, you still injure your knee while skiing, we’re here to help. Simply contact one of our two offices, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an appointment.