Preparing For Ski & Snowboard Season

For Immediate Release

Ski & Snowboard Conditioning Training is Key in Preventing Injuries
Preparing For Ski & Snowboard Season Takes More Than Readying Equipment & Buying Lift Tickets

As they prepare for the fun and excitement of their first day on the slopes this season, more than 28 million alpine skiers and snowboarders in the United States also know that they face numerous risks associated with these activities, which are considered among the most physically demanding of all sports. The good news is that many of these injuries can be prevented with a pre-season training program to add strength and flexibility to the muscles, tendons and ligaments used while skiing — many of which are rarely, if ever, used during normal everyday activities.

“Skiing and snowboarding are becoming more and more popular, mainly because they offer an opportunity for outdoor activity during the cold winter months,” notes Kevin Plancher, M.D., a leading New York orthopaedic surgeon and head of Plancher Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. He is also the official surgeon of the United States Ski and Snowboard Teams. “Adding to the risk of injury, especially among novices, is the fact that these sports tend to look easy to the average non-skier, and many people even believe that the soft, powdery snow will cushion their fall and help them avoid injury,” Plancher adds.

This, of course, is not the case. In fact, Dr. Plancher notes, “For skiers and snowboarders alike, we are concerned both with the rate of injury, and with the changes in the types of injuries we are seeing from year to year.” For example, while an increase in helmet use has resulted in fewer head injuries in recent years, and better equipment has all but eliminated instances of severe leg and ankle fractures, the overall bone injury rate among skiers has remained stable for the past ten years. As for snowboarders, injury rates more than doubled during that time. He adds that many of the changes in injury patterns reflect changes in the sports themselves, as younger participants begin to incorporate riskier freestyle moves into both sports. “The most common injuries now involve tendons, ligaments and muscles in the legs, knees, and even in the upper body, which — when specifically trained for added strength and flexibility during skiing — can withstand greater demands and range of motion without injury,” he adds.

Pre-Season Ski & Snowboard Training 101

Dr. Plancher urges skiers and snowboarders of all ages and skill levels to begin training now for the ski and snowboard season. He recommends concentrating on four key areas of conditioning:

  1. Flexibility: “Increasing the flexibility of muscles and ligaments is the most important thing skiers and snowboarders can do to lessen the risk of injury,” Dr. Plancher advises. That’s because virtually every major joint in the body — including ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, wrists and elbows — are relied upon heavily during active skiing and snowboarding, as well as during a fall. “More flexibility can help skiers and boarders stay on their feet, but it can also help them land properly during a fall to reduce the chance of injury,” he notes. Engaging in a 20-minute full body stretching routine daily — after an aerobic activity that has warmed up the muscles — can result in better flexibility within 6-8 weeks.
  2. Strengthening: Strength is equally important in preventing ski injury, Dr. Plancher maintains. Here, the key is to strengthen muscles, tendons and ligaments that may not have even been used since last winter! For example, doing squats and rotations on a bosu ball — a device with a large flat surface on top and a soft ball-shaped underside — can give underused leg and knee muscles a stretching, strengthening workout. Dr. Plancher cautions everyone to avoid deep knee squats or leg extension exercises with weights.
  3. Endurance: Overall physical fitness is important, as exhaustion or fatigue may make skiers and snowboarders more prone to injury. Up to an hour of daily aerobic exercise can increase cardiovascular endurance, lung capacity and overall fitness; choose walking, running, tennis or biking to strengthen leg muscles simultaneously.
  4. Core Development: When well-developed, the structures that make up the body’s core — the spine and abdomen — can improve power, strength, balance and coordination. “This aspect of pre-season training is often overlooked, but it can be one of the most important ones,” Dr. Plancher reveals. “Few sports require such a well-developed sense of balance as skiing and snowboarding do,” he adds. Dr. Plancher recommends yoga and pilates to help develop core strength and to increase mental focus — also key to reducing the risk of ski and snowboard injury.

“There is no way of preventing all skiing and snowboarding injuries,” Dr. Plancher admits. “However, preparation that starts now can have snow-sports enthusiasts well on their way to a safe and enjoyable ski and snowboard season this winter.”

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