Published on January 26, 2015
Ski season is upon us, and there is nothing like hitting the slopes to enjoy a beautiful winter day. Although a very fun activity, we also need to remember that skiing is a difficult sport, which is aggressive and tough on our lower body. Whether you are a ski racer or a recreational skier, the gravitational forces that are transmitted through our bodies make this sport difficult to do. During the wintertime, it is very common for therapists to see patients who have knee pain and injuries as a result of skiing.
Training throughout the year will help to prevent injuries on the slopes. Balance, stability and agility are three main components that are used in training in order to strengthen and stabilize the body so that it can resist the lateral forces and torque placed on the knees. As there is a lot of twisting movements, it is important to strengthen and stabilize the muscles of the core and the lower kinetic chain. Initiating the movement from the hips will allow for better technique, increasing power and strength during the side-to-side movements. But most importantly, it will prevent the knee from collapsing inwards reducing the risk of injury. Faulty movement patterns can predispose the skier to poor technique and increase the risk of lower extremity injuries.
Like many sports, skiing requires a shifting movement of weight from one leg to another. Therefore, a great screening tool and exercise that is used in our clinic is a single leg squat. It is very important to train each leg separately so that each leg can be as strong as the other.
The main point of this exercise is to increase the strength and stability of the gluteus medius. This muscle is an external hip rotator, which helps stabilize the pelvis, and prevent the knee from collapsing inwards- keeping the joint safe. When practicing, watch for proper alignment of the trunk, hip, knee and ankle. The movement should be initiated from the hips, and the spine should be neutral at all times without excessive movement. You should feel the burn in the side of your glutes first along with quadriceps and hamstings.
Ten Point Warmup Program
Research shows that a dynamic warm-up is helpful in reducing the risk of injury. This type of warm-up consists of movements that increase the body’s core temperature and activates the nervous system for the demands that will be placed on the body during sport. I will often prescribe the following exercise program to help my patients that ski. This program should be done a few days per week and as a dynamic warm-up routine before going out on the hills.
- Use the foam roller to relax and stretch the muscles of the lower body. It also helps increase blood flow and circulation to your hip and leg muscles. Focus on the gluts, quadriceps and hamstrings- spending approximately 20-30 seconds per area.
- Walking lunges should be done to open up the hips and increase range of movement. Proper alignment of the trunk, hips, knees and ankles should be watched to make sure the knee isn’t collapsing, keeping the joints safe. 2-3 sets of 10 per leg.
- Stretching of the quadriceps, hips and glutes will help increase blood flow and circulation to the areas. Butt kicks and high knees should be done for 30 seconds at a time.
- Train the gluteus medius muscles to prevent collapsing of the knee inwards to protect the joint. This can be done effectively with a simple use of a band. Lateral band walks, with the band placed around the ankles is effective. Aim for 2 sets of 10 each way. Follow this with monster walks, which is the same placement of the band but now moving forwards and backwards. Make sure to keep resistance on the band at all times.
- Train the hip extensors- the gluteus maximus muscles to help generate power with squats. Pull the band up from the ankles and place it around your knees. Do not allow the knees to collapse inwards and aim for 2 sets of 10-20 squats.
- Single leg squats on a box or stair are a phenomenal exercise to target balance and strength. 2 sets of 10.
- Train your balance and proprioception by doing slow controlled single leg toe touches. 2 sets of 10. Progress to trying this exercise on various surfaces, such as: a wobble board, BOSU ball, and unstable surfaces.
- Squat jumps- focusing on proper landing mechanics. Land softly on the balls of both feet with your knees and hips slightly bent. Do not allow your knees to buckle inwards or go to far forward over the foot. Repeat 2 sets of 10.
- Recover from the previous plyometric exercise and do some simple balance in place. Lift one leg to 90 degrees and hold for a minimum of 10-15 seconds and upwards of one minute. Progress to eyes closed. Then to swinging the opposite leg while maintaining your balance.
- Finish with a plank exercise to warm up the core which is firing and bracing to prevent excessive flexion of the lumbar spine while skiing. Hold the plank for 2 sets of 15-30 seconds and progressing to a static hold of 1-2 minutes.
The goal: To have a stable and well-aligned knee when skiing in order to help reduce the risk of injury.