By Dr. Edward Loniewski, DO
Ask any competitive skier about the one joint they are most concerned about and most would point to their knees. Just ask Lindsey Vaughn. This may be due to the fact that you are traveling down a hill at speeds exceeding 40 mph with boards strapped to your feet acting like large levers translating massive amounts of torque directed right into your knees. Think if I took a 4 foot board and tied this to your foot while I took a large mallet and hit it as hard as I could? You can thank Misery’s nurse Annie Wilkes, “My number one fan,” for that idea…
Now, that we have that vision burned into our heads, it will be hard to hit the slopes with great enthusiasm. However, we can still enjoy the thrill of skiing or snowboarding with greater confidence if we prepare properly for this stress and strain.
First Step—Get Your Gear into Gear
It is critical to make sure your ski or snowboarding equipment is working properly. It is best to take them into your local ski shop (normally found right at the ski resort) to have the edges sharpened; the gouges filled in and most importantly the weight adjusted for your bindings. Don’t just assume that you are the same weight you were 2 years ago. As a summary of common sense tips, the National Ski Patrol has the following suggestions: National Ski Patrol Ski and Snow Tips
Second Step—Strengthen Your Muscles Like an Olympian
Plan to get your lower half in shape to help you take control of the slopes rather than the slopes taking control of you. This means exercises to strengthen your quadriceps (thigh muscles) , hamstrings, calves and also your essential lower back muscles. I always felt you should learn from the experts, so instead of trying to fool everyone that I am perform these exercises all the time, here is a link to a site showing the Top 5 Exercises Used by the US Ski Team. We also sell a great home training kit called the DonJoy Deluxe Knee Therapy Kit. This provides everything you need to do the therapy you need right at home.
Third Step—Brace yourself for Some Fun
You should consider purchasing some support for your knee. The most common ski ligament injuries of the knee include Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears. Most of these injuries occur when the knee is hyper-extended. This means it is forced backwards when the skier looses control and falls backwards. Only a few manufactured braces can actually prevent hyper-extension and actually only one type of brace hinge has been shown to reduce ACL injuries. The FourcePoint Hinge has a patented technology to react during the last 35 degrees of extension of the knee offering progressive resistance to reduce extension shock and increase loads to the posterior tibia (shin bone) thus reducing the stress on the ACL. When this technology is combined with a 4-point leverage design, your knee can rest like a baby rolled up in bubble wrap and placed in one of those 6 point harnesses in your car. Just hope your knee brace doesn’t spit up on your leg!
Getting ready for some fun in the snow may take some time, effort and money, but the feeling of flying down the slopes with effortless carving turns and a stable set of knees makes it all worth the preparation.
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