How a knee surgeon prevents ski injuries
Almost time to head to the slopes - it’s ski season! But did you know you can start preparing for your ski holiday weeks in advance and the more you prepare, the less likely you are to come back with an injury?
When we think of skiing injuries, we probably think of the extreme scenario: a fall or crash causing broken bones or worse. But skiers often don’t think of the risk of muscle or ligament injuries caused by a lack of training beforehand.
Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to reduce the risk. We spoke to Amir Qureshi, an internationally-trained knee specialist who is part of the Medbelle network, to get some advice on how to minimise the risk without ruining the fun.
In brief: tips to avoid ski injuries
● Be prepared: Start training at least six weeks before the holiday. This includes strength, flexibility, and cardio, with a particular focus on the legs.
● Take it easy: You will have forgotten a lot since you last skied so start out with some slightly easier slopes than you ended on last time.
● Get the right equipment: Badly fitting shoes make a fall more likely.
● Start with looser bindings: While you’re getting back into the swing of it, looser bindings will make twist injuries less likely if you fall.
Based in Southampton, Amir is an internationally recognised specialist in knees, sports injuries, and lower limb surgery. He has treated countless ski injuries and is also a keen skier himself. He said: ‘An easy mistake to make when you go skiing once a year is to pick up where you left off last time. You ended last year’s holiday doing a fantastic off-piste run, so you start off trying the same this time.’
‘But unless you’re one of the lucky few who can ski all year round, you and your body will have forgotten a lot since you were last on the slopes. That means more risk of injuries either caused by falls or muscle movements your body isn’t used to.’
This leads to another easy mistake to make; not preparing for skiing until you get there. As it’s a holiday, it’s easy to forget but skiing is a sport that requires particular movements and if your body isn’t trained to make those movements, you are at a higher risk of tears and strains.
Amir said: ‘Training should start at least six weeks before your holiday. You want to focus not only on flexibility but also strengthening the muscles; the stronger they are, the better they can support your body as it twists.’
What should be the main focus of training? Amir recommends looking into specific programmes for skiers: ‘These can be found online, and a lot of physios and gyms will also do ski classes to build up your legs.’
‘Particularly important are knees, hamstrings, thighs, and lower legs; these are what give you control when you’re skiing. But it is a whole-body sport, and cardio is also important; exercise is a lot more intense in the thin mountain air. If you hadn’t run for a year, you wouldn’t go straight into a half-marathon without training, and this is no different.’
Don't push yourself
What about that more obvious cause of injuries; falls? Here again, starting slowly can be really beneficial. Amir said: ‘I know what it’s like, especially if you’re in a mixed-ability group; you might feel guilty about holding others back and attempt a slope that’s out of your comfort zone.’
‘But it really isn’t worth the risk. Ask yourself if you really can keep up with the others and if not, it’s better to do your own thing and meet them at lunch.’
Finding the right gear
Equipment can also help prevent injuries. Amir said: ‘Make sure your boots are the right size and for the first few runs, keep your bindings a bit loose. Most injuries come after a fall where the binding hasn’t come off, so the ski gets stuck and causes a twist injury.’
'Injuries I see don't put me off'
Though he has seen plenty of ski injuries, Amir still loves the sport himself but takes the above precautions to make sure he doesn’t return with more than he bargained for. He said: ‘I didn’t go skiing until I was in my forties, but I do try to go every year now if my diary allows it. The injuries I see don’t put me off, but they absolutely encourage me to be cautious and stay within my limits.’
‘As with all amateur sports, there can be perceptions that it’s a bit embarrassing to be ‘too’ prepared by warming up and training beforehand. But these sports have the same impact on your body whether you’re an amateur or a professional. Skiing is a wonderful winter holiday and these basic precautions mean you’re less likely to ruin your trip with an avoidable injury.’
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