Winter is definitely here – and with Christmas just around the corner, ski season is also about to kick off. As physios, during the winter season we see an increasing number of injuries associated with winter sports.
When we say winter injuries, you probably think about horror stories of friends snapping their knee ligaments. While these are definitely real, we also see muscle injuries such as hamstring and calf tears as people carry on with their normal exercise routine (running, football…) without taking into consideration the effects of the decreasing temperatures on their body.
Make no mistake: a day on your skis or a run when it's 2°c outside is demanding, whether you’re a pro or a beginner. You’ll work muscles that haven't been used in a while and you'll be exposed to new conditions and different impacts and stresses. This is the perfect cocktail for injury! The good thing is - whether you’re heading for the slopes or just looking to maintain your exercise routine this winter, most of those injuries are preventable.
Read on to learn about some of the most common winter sports injuries, and our best tips to avoid them this season...
...this might help you get back from your ski trip in one piece too!
___ while you're here...
If you’re serious about your preparation, or if you’re recovering from an injury, don’t hesitate to book on one of our Winter Sports Packages so we can help you design the best rehab / preparation plan in time for the season. Use the code SKIPREP10 for 10% off until December 15th.
You can also sign-up for our Winter Prep Workshop on Sat 15th December: 60 mins of tips, exercises and secrets from our Physios on how to remain strong and safe throughout winter.
What are the most common winter sports injuries?
Knee ligament injuries: Knee ligament sprains or ruptures are the most common skiing injuries. ACL and MCL injuries occur usually when the knee is twisted under pressure (such as when falling). See the video above for a good example of an ACL tear!
Skiers thumb: This is a sprain or ruptue of the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb. It often happens when the skier falls onto an outstretch thumb, such as when holding a ski pole.
Snowboarder’s fracture: This is usually a fracture of the scaphoid, a small bone of the wrist, which happens when a snowboarder falls back onto an outstretch hand.
Shoulder dislocations: When falling backwards or to the side your arm can get dragged backwards or at awkward angles, causing the shoulder to dislocate. This is less common than lower limb injuries but can be frequent in people with decreased control in their shoulder (often referred as "shoulder instability").
Hamstring injuries: Not necessarily specific to the skier / snowboarder, but we see an increasing number of hamstring strains and tears in winter in people that practice outdoor sports such as running or football. This is often due to a lack of effective warm up before the session, and can be aggravated by muscle imbalances in the leg often between quadriceps and hamstrings and weakness in glutes.
So how to avoid them?
It’s common for people to hit the snow unprepared. Whether you’re a pro or a first-timer, engaging in a specific exercise programme before your trip will improve your overall fitness, balance and even your technique. And of course reduce your risk of injury.
We always say it at LDN: learn, strengthen, maintain!
1. Learn: take the time to learn about good technique. Have a trained professional assess your form and highlight your key weaknesses. If you’re a first timer on the slopes, take lessons! If you aren't heading to the slopes but going to run outside, have a professional assess your running gait and learn about ways to properly warm-up before your run.
You can download our free winter warm up routine by clicking this link.
2. Strengthen: There are tons of specific exercises you could do, and a comprehensive assessment into your balance, flexibility, strength and proprioception performed by a physiotherapist or sports specialist will help you choose the most appropriate ones for you. With that said, the exercises below are a good start!
1. Squats: Your thighs are probably the hardest working muscles when you are skiing. Squats are one of the best, not to mention easiest ways of building strength in your legs. They help strengthen on glutes, quads and core control. On the slopes, that'll be useful for turns, heel slides and breaking.
Progression: squat jumps. This will develop your explosiveness and help your during turns!
2. Wall squats: you know that feeling of your thighs burning on long slopes? As old school as this exercise is (you may know it as the roman chair) it’s still a good one to help increase your quads stamina.
Variation: you can perform this in a low squat position too (not against the wall). Start in a squat position and hold at the lowest point, with your hands in front. Try holding for 30 seconds, you can even add little up and down pumping movements. Burning yet?
This gif definitely has got it wrong: your quads should be shaking, not your calves!
3. Lunges: great exercises that will help you focus further on glutes, hamstrings and quads. This will be specifically helpful for uphill walking / cimbing and fast turns.
Progression: lunges with rotation. Rotate to the side as you come down, this will challenge your core and balance even more.
4. Planks: a good core is key for any sports, and that's definitely true for skiing. A strong core will help you during turns and more challenging runs.
3. Maintain: Maintain fitness and safe training practice throughout the season. Find an exercise routine and keep at it, gradually progressing and increasing the load / stress / challenge. When you're heading to the slopes (or for a run) pick a good warm up routine, and try to perform it consistently.
Another key area to consider is your equipment: make sure to invest in good equipment, check that your bindings are properly set up for you, buy some good quality, sport-specific clothes as well so you can layer up!
And of course: easy on the apres-ski! The lasting effects of alcohol will affect your reaction time, balance and perceived risk which all contribute to increasing your risk of injury.
If you follow these rules, you'll be in a good position to avoid injuries this winter - or at least reduce their impact! Don't forget: sometimes we can gain a lot from getting a professional assessment and guidance on what key areas to focus on, even the fittest amongst us! Sometimes the weaknesses are not that obvious, and only minor adjustments, tiny tweaks are needed. But those minor changes will make a big difference when schussing down a black run!
At LDN PHYSIO, we have Specialist Physiotherapists who can perform a comprehensive, full assessment and create the right program tailored to you and your goals. If you suffer from injury or any pains and niggles, we can also treat them before they settle so you can be ready in time for this winter.
And you can also sign-up for our Winter Prep Workshop on Sat 15th December: 60 mins of tips, exercises and secrets from our Physios on how to remain strong and safe throughout winter.