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Top tips for avoiding knee injury on the slopes


There are many people willing to give advice about preparing for your ski holiday, by exercising and firming up the right muscles for their annual week-long blitz on the mountain. But there are other things you can do to prevent injury once you’re on the slopes. Here we list twelve simple things you can do to help – care of an old Daily Telegraph article we just stumbled on from 2008!

Let’s assume you have managed to get yourself almost fit. Great. All those right-angled leans against the wall at home have paid off, and your ham-strings are a lot stronger for it. But being (almost) fit is no guarantee of staying injury-free. In fact, it can be the cause or many injuries, hood-winking you into thinking you can ski the entire day without a rest, or take slopes at a far greater speed than you would normally tackle them at.

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament – the skier’s Achilles Heel

The ACL is one of the short ligaments that hold the middle of the knee together, and it is easily damaged by a severe twist – especially the sort a skier suffers in a slow, backwards fall. Jonathan Bell, an orthopaedic consultant in Wimbledon, and passionate skier, says “the first five metres after you get off a chairlift are the most dangerous on the mountain”. The slowness is a problem because there isn’t enough sudden force to spring open the bindings and so protect your knees from the levering effect of the skis.

Skis and boots – a contributory factor

Of course, skiers have been falling over slowly for generations, but Bell believes that the curved edges of modern carving skis have created a new problem. Instead of sticking or dragging against the snow, as the old parallel-edged skis used to do, the carver’s edge catches the snow and steers the ski away from you, twisting your knee as it goes.

The other contributory factor seems to be ski boots. These now protect ankles and shins much more effectively than older designs. The result, unhappily, is more pressure on the knee. Until bindings are developed that counter this, we all remain vulnerable to knee injuries.

Weak, tired muscles give less protection to the joints and make them more prone to injury. Bell thinks we should be following a conditioning programme for at least six weeks before departure. Local gyms and physios should be able to help.

Twelve knee-protection tips

1. Take lessons
The better your technique, the less chance you will put undue strain on your joints.
2. Set your bindings correctly
Skiers using incorrectly adjusted skis and bindings are eight times more likely to suffer injury. Crank up the DIN setting (which controls how easily the bindings snap open) beyond what is appropriate for your weight and ability, and you are asking for trouble. When hiring skis, know your weight in kilograms, be honest with the ski technician about it, and be honest about your ability too.
3. Take a rest day
The highest risk of accident is after 3pm on the third day of your holiday. This is because muscle fatigue reaches its peak 48 hours after you start your holiday.
4. Take the lift at the end of the day
You will be tired, the pistes may be icy and crowded, and there will probably be bare patches in the snow – a perfect recipe for a fall. There is no stigma is playing safe!
5. Control your weight
The heavier you are, the more strain you are putting on your knees.
6. Take nutritional supplements if you suffer from osteoarthritis
Both glucosamine and chondroitin, which are available from chemist shops, are known to have beneficial effects.
7. Keep within your comfort zone
Control is good, bravado is bad, and icy moguls – at least if you already have any damage to your knees – are very bad indeed.
8. Don’t drink alcohol at lunchtime
It slows your reactions and makes you more reckless.
9. Ski off-peak
The quieter the slopes the less danger there will be of your being called on to take sudden evasive action.
10. Don’t wear a knee brace
According to Bell, the only skiers who might benefit from a brace are those who are returning to the sport with an old or partially healed ligament injury (they might want to use a hinged brace), or those with mild arthritis (who might benefit from a neoprene sleeve). Otherwise, skiing without a brace improves the ability of the muscles around the knee to respond effectively to the different stresses and strains.
11. Seek advice immediately after an injury
Clinics in ski resorts are well versed in treating knee pain. Above all, do not ski with a swollen knee: put ice on it, and take anti-inflammatories until the swelling subsides.
12. Consider snowboarding
Snowboarders are less prone to the twisting effect that causes knee injury. (On the other hand, they are more at risk of head and wrist injury.)

L'auteur de ce post a connu une rupture ACL et un ligament déchiré Medial, and can testify to their pain. Whilst passionate about preventing ACL injury in others, Je ne peux pas prendre un crédit pour ce poste. Plutôt, seeing as the content was blatantly plagiarised from the Daily Telegraph, credit goes equally to them and to Jonathan Bell, who holds regular knee clinics for skiers at the Wimbledon Clinics in south London.


Octobre 16, 2014


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