How to Stay Injury Free During Ski Season
1. ITS ALL IN THE CORE
From the premier league footballers we work with, to post natal mummies, we aim to strengthen ALL of our physiotherapy patients and clients core in the same way- making it as strong as physically possible.
Why? The answer is simple, having a strong core, that activates and funcitons in all positions enhances sporting physical performance and prevents injury.
To ensure correct ski technique you need to learn how to activate your deep core muscles. Having strong deep core muscles (tranversus abdominus) will decrease vulnerability to injury, particluarly as ski conditions become more difficult.
Correct deep core activation can take some time to master, and maintaining it throughout sporting performance can be challenging; particularly as fatigue kicks in.
To start – locate where your true core is, master the art of activating it correctly, then practice makes perfect.
We should be aiming to consciously engage the core muscles throughout the day. This will help strengthen the deep core. This technique, can be completed in standing, when you’re sitting at your work desk, walking – basically anywhere! These small, frequent muscle engagements add up to great results.
2. IMPROVE YOUR ANKLE MOBILITY
Current research shows that the majority of serious ski related injuries are sustained to the knees, some of which are serious enough to require surgery. Some of the worst we’ve seen in clinic have involved significant surgery to both knees at the same time!
Many of these injuries have been directly linked to excess pressure being placed through the knee joints, due to a lack of ankle mobility. It makes sense when you think about it, but without the correct guidance from a qualified instructor, and constant reminders for beginners, a lack of bend in the ankle joint can be enough to end your ski trip early due to serious injury.
A lack of ankle mobility can be as a result of:
1. Poor ski form.
2. Badly fitted ski boots preventing ankle dorsi- flexion (into the bent toes up position)
3. Tightness in the calf muscles
4. A historically stiff ankle joint
To help with the above:
1. ALL BEGINNERS – Get ski lessons. If you have invested in a trip to the slopes and all the gear to go with, don’t cut the last corner. Lessons will teach you correct form from the get go and keep you safe This will allow you to progress more quickly and join your friends on the slopes feeling confident and safe.
a. Get your boots fitted by a specialist to help maximise ankle mobility. If you’re renting boots spend some time at the rental shop learning to fasten your boot correctly and ensure they fit well.
b. Stretch your calf muscles! Don’t forget there are 2 muscles that make up the calf area, the solues – often neglected lies under the main gastrocnemius muscle, gastrocnemious and the Achilles tendon all need attention. A great way to test your ankle mobility is to complete the following test (and you can measure your progress as your ankle mobility increases)
Knee to wall ankle mobility test:
– Stand facing the wall and place the toes of one foot next to the wall with the knee touching the wall
– Move the foot as far away from the wall as possible, without the knee losing contact with the wall
– Measure the distance of toes to wall on both feet Less than 6cm is considered tight This will either be due to a tightness in the gastrocnemius/soleus (calf) muscles or an ankle mobility deficit. A calf stretching routine is recommended with repeated testing as above. Should the mobility not improve in 2 weeks, an assessment with a Chartered Physiotherapist is recommended to assess the ankle.
3. HIP FLEXIBILITY
The hip joint is a ball and socket joint, which is highly mobile with the ability to move freely through a wide range of movement.
Skiing puts a significant pressure through the hip joints. The hip joint’s ability to both sustain and control this pressure whilst powering through turns smoothly is paramount.
Without full functional range of movement in the hips, the chances of sustaining an injury are much higher due to poor ski form and the way this lack of mobility impacts on other joints.
To prevent a hip related ski injury:
Hip stretching/ range of movement programme
It is important to work through all ranges of motion when stretching out the hips. If you are not experienced with hip stretches, consider attending yoga classes or an assessment with a Chartered Physiotherapist
Deep tissue release/sports massage
Should the stretching programme not provide sufficient benefit, you may require myofascial or deep tissue release around the hip joints to help increase the extensibility of the local muscle groups.
4. CONTROL THE HIPS- It’s time to get those glutes FIRING!
Lateral muscle activation & strength is important to ensure skier symmetry, and prevention of skiing in an A frame (otherwise know as snow plough). As a beginner you are taught to ski in snow plough to ensure your safety and also to help build your confidence.
As you progress your ski ability, you will be taught to ski parallel, which basically means your skis move in unison, parallel to each other, rather than in an ‘A’ frame.
Your instructor will teach you to progress to parallel skiing, as Skiing in an ‘A’ frame not only causes inconsistency between turns due to asymmetrical skis, it also puts excess pressure on the knee joints, thus increasing chances of injury.
To prevent ski injury due to a lack of hip control:
Lateral chain strengthening programme
The lateral chain includes the glute medius and minimus (outer butt muscles) and the opposing adductors of the thigh (the inner thigh muscles on the opposite leg)
Experienced skiiers will be aware of the importance of correct knee tracking to prevent injury. For those less experienced, BEWARE of the valgus knee drop (falling in of the knees). This is one of the most common causes of knee ligamentous injuries, with a higher prevalence in women due to wider hips, increased Q- angles (angle between the hip and the knee) & diminished hip strength. Strong glute muscles and lateral chain will help prevent valgus drop and keep you safer on the slopes.
5. RECOVERY- The easy bit, ish!
Muscle soaks. They are a great way to help manage muscle soreness and rid the body of lactic acid and toxins. Look out for soaks containing magnesium, sodium, and bromide which you can find in clinic (we use the BetterYou range of amazing products for recovery)
Don’t shy away from foam rolling your muscles and stretching to help your body recover and prepare for skiing the following day. If you’re unsure of what to do on the foam roller:
Finally, hydration and good food. Like with all exercise you need to fuel your body pre and post workout. That includes hydration too, it’s so important to ensure you are drinking plenty of water before, during and after your days on the slopes. In terms of food – you should aim to take on carbohydrate and protein before and after your time on the slopes. The two work well in unison to help the muscles prepare and recover from the demands placed upon them. Aim to take your fuel on board 45-60 mins before you hit the slopes and again within that timeframe après ski for optimal effect!
If you need any help with; how to prevent injuries, build up strength in weak areas, sports massage or physiotherapy treatment for an injury, give us a call for advice and/or to book in for an appointment!